AT Cnet, Gordon Haff tells us Why e-books aren’t cheaper:

We’ve all heard the rant. With e-books, there’s no paper, printing, transportation, and so forth. So why should an e-book still cost $9.99 (typical for Kindle) or even more?

The idea of e-books being cheaper makes a lot of intuitive sense. If everything you physically hold in your hand and everything it took to deliver that physical good to your hand can be converted to a few megabytes worth of electrons, surely the cost of the book must be dramatically lower than a typical hardcover–and the price should reflect that fact.

The problem is that the costs aren’t nearly as much lower as you might believe.

…if you want the same level of professional preparation and promotion associated with a typical printed book–the $9.99 e-book price that a lot of people grumble about is probably pretty near the floor.

I wonder what the sweet spot is for eBooks. I’m not knowledgeable in the economics of books sales, but as a consumer I can’t help thinking that cheaper means more sales and thus more profit.

Here’s why:


As the boxes and boxes of books I have purchased will confirm, I’m a raging biblioholic. This started during my younger days when I was looking for cheap entertainment and the local used bookstore became my crack house. The cheap entry price (sometimes as low as 50 cents for a like-new piece of classic sf…[gurgle]…) made the purchase decision a no-brainer.

I had the same media-hoarding frenzy on the used CD circuit in the 90’s. Cheap = don’t think, just buy. But I got older, started a family and the CD purchases tapered off. I haven’t purchased a new CD in years.

That is, until I discovered Amazon’s MP3 store earlier this year. It’s not the digital format I found attractive, – it was the cheap price of their daily deals. For anywhere between $1 and $5, I could download an album from new artists whose song samples piqued my interest. Suddenly, new music was in my life again. The cheap price opened the doorway to my previously-closed wallet and Amazon has become my new crack house.

I see a similar behavior in the smartphone space: I see the popularity of the iPhone App store and its $3 mini apps and I wonder: could the same thing be true for eBooks? Sure, there are other issues to consider (preferring the heft of a physical book, cheap/legible reading devices, etc.)…but I wonder if the the general public is ready for the Cheap eBook Revolution to begin.

Riddle me this: What’s your dream price for eBooks? At what price would you not think twice about buying an eBook that interests you?

Filed under: Books

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