Inhibited impulses: The pricing for e-books

Perhaps because I was in college for 10 years total, I’m someone who is pretty conscious about money. Even now that I’m done with school, I have a fairly strict budget for what I spend on “discretionary” purchases – entertainment, eating out, etc. And ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved reading, so my “for-fun” books (not that I have a ton of time for them!) have always been one of my major expenditures.

However, it’s not just lack of time that has contributed to my inability to do any fun reading, it’s the price of e-books. I’ve already complained about the pricing for these books: I continue to find it absurd that a digital copy of a book would cost more than a hard-copy (yes, I get there’s a convenience fee but does it really outweigh printing, storing, and shipping costs??). But not only are the prices of e-books absurd compared to hard-copies, they just seem high altogether.

Now, although I do a lot of reading, I’m probably not the ideal customer. I’ve long been a fan of buying used books, which means I’m used to paying $6-10 for a book. Unfortunately for me – and perhaps for the industry – most e-books aren’t in that price range, instead costing between $12-15. By making e-books that expensive, they are preventing me from the impulse buy: I often get a sample for a book, really enjoy it, but balk when it comes to paying anything over $10. But if the same book were less than that – say $8 – I’d probably buy the book without hesitation.

With a higher price point for most books, the e-book industry is limiting their audience and their sales. Shaving a few dollars off that sticker price – getting back to the range where consumers can buy it without thinking twice or checking their budget – is likely to be repaid in higher sales, especially in a bad economy. Similarly, more sales and coupons for e-books would help: I get emails from Barnes & Noble offering sales on their products, but it always excludes the NOOK books and thereby excludes me.

If the prices of e-books come down, maybe I’ll be able to rely on a cheap book as an impulse buy rather than another candy bar!


Now, I’m all for paying authors for their work – although my writing at this point has been for academic journals (and thus uncompensated), if I ever write a book I’d hope to make some money off of it. And since my favorite genre is historical fiction or biographies, many of these books are meticulously researched and carefully written, requiring years of work that merits a well-deserved pay off. But most of the money from selling a book doesn’t go to the authors – most authors get around 10% of the publishers’ price, meaning authors aren’t making a ton of money even if they hit the best-sellers list. However, what piece of the pie authors should be getting for their work is an entirely different issue – and one I’m not getting into in any more detail here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *