Friday, March 9, 2012

The ebook pricing multi-lemma

Multi, because there are so many factors involved.

Let's see. There's a government investigation into certain parties for deliberately over-pricing ebooks. At the same time, a vocal minority (I hope) of readers think that ebooks cost nothing to produce and should, therefore, be free. (Most of them, I assume, have as many bills to pay as writers).

Then, there is the 99 cent issue. Distributors generally will not allow an ebook to be priced lower than 99 cents. This appears arbitrary, but is to allow them to make some profit over transaction fees. E-shorts, therefore, have to be priced at 99 cents. Meanwhile, other writers try to maximize sales by pricing full novels at 99 cents. This makes it harder to sell e-shorts.

Some ebook costs are length dependent. Others are not. A professional cover costs the same whether you're producing a 4,000 word short or a 300,000 word epic. Editing, on the other hand, is generally priced per 1000 words or so.

One thing that could be considered true is that the cost of producing an electronic edition in addition to a print edition is not that much. Cover work and editing are done, so the only thing to worry about is layout...which can be done by an intern, pretty much. I know...I've done it. However, to a big publisher, the print and electronic editions are a unit. They expect the ebook to cover its share of all of the production costs...cover, editing and print runs (although print runs cost a lot less than editing, which is the big cost to the publisher). And, of course, the author still needs to be paid.

With the number of people giving ebooks away for free for marketing purposes (and the number of public domain ebooks Amazon and its ilk are giving away), its possible to enjoy as much reading as you want for free. Which bolsters the idea that entertainers should not charge for what they do, especially writers.

If you want to support authors, though, you need to buy their books (or, alternatively, go to kickstarter or the like and find a worthy project to donate to, which often comes with perks). Free is not sustainable. Neither are excessively high prices people are not willing to pay.

If pricing an ebook, consider everything. 99 cents might seem to be the sweet point, but do you really want to look like a rock bottom discount writer? (Some people will actually go for more expensive books because they assume the very cheap ones are bad).

I think, eventually, ebook pricing will settle down, but right now it's still kind of the wild west out here.