eBook Pricing Resembles 3-D Chess

Here’s a recent post from Mike Shatzkin on a topic of perennial interest: eBook pricing resembles three dimensional chess

Mike explains why we’re seeing ebook prices that are higher than prices for the physical books, sometimes higher than the hardcover. I had wondered about that.

Of course, high ebook prices concern me because, as Mike points out:

The fact that this is reducing publisher revenue and each title’s unit sales is concerning. But it is also making it much more difficult to establish new authors at the same time because lots of competing indies are still being launched with low price points that encourage readers to sample them.

High ebook prices — and high means “high relative to lots of other ebooks available in the market” — will only work with the consumer when the book is “highly branded”, meaning already a bestseller or by an author that is well-known. And word-of-mouth, the mysterious phenomenon that every publisher counts on to make books big, is lubricated by low prices and seriously handicapped by high prices. If a friend says “read this” and the price is low, it can be an automatic purchase. Not so much if the price makes you stop and think.

Yes, and since I still consider myself a new author, this is Bad.

Let me just check . . . yes, Amazon still shows MOUNTAIN with a hardcover price over $25, but an ebook price of only $7.99. Good.

Here’s Mike Shatzkin’s take-home summation:

An unpleasant underlying reality seems inescapable: revenues for publishers and authors will be going down on a per-unit basis.

In that sentence, in my opinion, the five key words are “on a per-unit basis.” My personal revenues can totally go up if sales go up a lot as prices come down a lot. So can my readership and discoverability. Have I mentioned lately how glad I am that Saga is keeping their ebooks under $10? Because I totally am. They could drop the price still lower and that would be fine with me!

Just a month till MOUNTAIN is out, btw! You totally NEED a secondary world fantasy to take you away from this year’s political season, right? Here you go:


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1 thought on “eBook Pricing Resembles 3-D Chess”

  1. The Passive Voice picked up on that post last month, and some of the comments on TPV were interesting. People discussed their observations from their own experience as buyers or self-pubbed writers.

    “Digital pricing, today, isn’t that hard.
    Back in 2009-2011, sure, ebooks were new and the value proposition wasn’t clear at the consumer level. Although even then it was generally understood that sub-paperback pricing got a lot less pushback from readers.

    But today we have data. From Smashwords. From Author Earnings. From Kindle rankings. And, indirectly, from Amazon itself.”

    and it all seems to boil down to professional publishing is making really bad pricing decisions.

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