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As Kindle Authors Make Their Own Bestsellers, Are Traditional Publishers the Vanity Presses of 2011?

Some interesting developments lately with Kindle Store bestsellers and bestselling authors….

First, congratulations to several Kindle Nation sponsors who have recently soared into the top 100 in the Kindle Store, and in some cases onto the USA Today bestseller list as well! Here’s where some of our past or current sponsors stand as I write this:

  • David Lender‘s Trojan Horse is #47 in the Kindle Store, up from #11,941 prior to its first sponsorship on February 19
  • Debbie Mack‘s Least Wanted is #55 and her Identity Crisis is #65 and #139 on the USA Today list (up from #3,374 and #1,048 before their first sponsorship January 18)
  • Victorine E. Lieske‘s Not What She Seems is #86 in the Kindle Store, up from #8,000+ before her first sponsorship in September, and was on the USA Today list ealier this month
  • And last but most definitely not least, colleague Abhi Sing of Kindle Review and his Seven Dragons team hold the #1 spot on the Kindle Store bestseller list with their magical and revolutionary Notepad app for the Kindle, which is currently featured as the Kindle App of the day here at Kindle Nation!

Meanwhile, we covered former CIA covert ops agent Barry Eisler‘s announcement the other day on Joe Konrath‘s blog that he has walked away from a half-million dollar St. Martin’s Press deal for his next two books in order to publish them directly via the Kindle and other platforms. “Direct publishing” is the new “self-publishing,” in case you hadn’t noticed, and it may be a more apt phrase since it is the platforms offered by new digital technologies such as the Kindle, rather than anything that we as authors have invented, that allow us to public and connect directly with readers.

Ruth Harris' novel Decades, a future bestseller at 99 cents?

Eisler’s move has been widely hailed as a major development requiring — I’m sorry, there’s just not a pretty way to put this — very large cojones. And I agree, but courageous moves are seldom significant unless they blaze a trail for others. What may be most important about what Eisler has done is that there will soon be plenty more authors of distinction who follow a similar path to bring their previously published and newly published books directly to Kindle readers and other digital platforms, and it will be interesting to see how they go about the process of building fresh connections with readers, absent the usual intermediaries and gatekeepers.

One of these authors of distinction who comes naturally to mind is New York Times bestselling novelist Ruth Harris, whose Husbands and Lovers is today’s Kindle Nation Daily sponsor. Harris has sold millions of print copies of smart, stylish novels that have been translated into 19 languages and selected by the Literary Guild and Book-of-the-Month Club, and she recently brought back Husbands and Lovers, Decades and Love and Money as direct-to-Kindle offerings. Husbands and Lovers jumped from #55,528 to #5,275o on the Kindle Store bestseller list during the past few hours, and the author is priming the pump by offering Decades at a promotional price of just 99 cents. It will be interesting to see how the New York Times plays it when Harris sells enough directly published ebooks to qualify for bestseller lists, as I believe she will. The Times has taken an utterly indefensible, know-nothing stance to keep its bestseller list free of self-published authors, but if the self-published author is a former New York Times bestselling author, will she still be barred entry?

But not everyone is moving away from traditional publishers toward direct publishing. Along comes the amazing Amanda Hocking today — according to this New York Times scoop — to sign a … are you sitting down? … deal for over $2 million with MacMillan’s St. Martin’s Press for her next series, whose working series title is “Watersong.” Hocking, 26, blogged very eloquently on Tuesday about some of the reasons — in addition to the two million obvious ones — she might be interested in a traditional publishing contract. And who can blame her?

But I have to wonder how her ebooks will do if MacMillan and St. Martin’s price them in the $11.99 to $14.99 range which publishers stupidly claim is the right price for newly released ebooks. Currently Hocking has 6 titles among the Kindle Store’s Top 100 bestsellers, but they are all priced between 99 cents and $2.99. Could agency model pricing ruin the Amanda Hocking franchise?

While this is the first ebook-to-traditional publishing contract narrative to ascend to the rarified air of  the $2 million advance, there have been a few other cases where authors signed nice contracts after doing very well previously with direct-to-Kindle ebooks. A couple of years ago Boyd Morrison made a big splash when he sold enough copies of his self-published novel The Ark to crack the Kindle Store bestseller list’s Top 100 and he parlayed it into a multiple-title contract with agency model publisher Simon and Schuster. The Ark was reissued for about three times its original Kindle Store price, although Morrison’s royalty rate is less than it would be if he had published it directly at the more reader-friendly $2.99 price. Not surprisingly, The Ark has created far less buzz the second time around.

Lately it keeps occurring to me that the big traditional corporate publishers are the vanity presses of 2011. Obviously, when an author is offered a deal such as Hocking’s, nobody will blame her for signing on the line. But Morrison’s example suggests there may be plenty of others who sign away their rights for far less than they are worth because of some romantic and outmoded sense of what it means, or used to mean, to land a book deal.

Kudos to Publisher MacMillan for Speaking Up, Even if….

Along with most citizens of Kindle Nation, I happen to believe that some of the big publishers are making a big mistake by trying to control retail ebook prices and raise those prices by 30 to 50 percent. This mistake is compounded, in my view, by the apparent circumstance of its having been arrived at through a collusive, anti-consumer process in which the “Apple 5” of MacMillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, and HarperCollins have been lured by Steve Jobs into trying to fix prices and restructure retail relationships all at once.

That being said, congratulations to MacMillan CEO John Sargent for having the guts and transparency to speak up and address readers directly in this post on the company’s blog yesterday:

Macmillan CEO John Sargent on the agency model, availability and price

I had been critical of Sargent previously for addressing his earlier comments only to authors and literary agents, and consequently trying to position them to speak up on his and his company’s behalf, and this new post is well worth reading. He has not changed my mind, and I doubt he will change the minds of many ebook readers, but we will see. There are dozens of comments that give a good sense of the range of views generally in the ebook pricing controversy, and you may want to add your voice to those of other readers.

There are reasons for  optimism about the way that this will play out, and I see glimmers of hope both in the fact that Random House has yet to join the Apple 5 and in the fact that Sargent cracks open the door of flexibility an inch or two by acknowledging that some ebooks will be priced lower than $12.99 during their “hardcover new release” period. If readers are in a position where they are able to make buying decisions based on price as well as interest in particular books, it will be easier for publishers to gather information about the importance of competitive pricing.

Credit should be given to Sargent for staying away from two “that dog won’t hunt” arguments, at least for now:

  • He doesn’t try to claim that these dramatic increases are based on cost.
  • He doesn’t try to justify these dramatic increases by saying they will be good for authors or even lead to higher royalties for authors.

One omission that hurts his case involves the actual price that consumers usual pay for hardcover new releases. It is a classic  case of apples and oranges for Sargent to compare the hardcover suggested list prices of $25 to $35 with the $12.99 to $14.99 prices the Apple 5 wants to fix for ebooks. The retailers responsible for most hardcover book sales in the U.S. (Amazon, the chains, and the big box stores) have been discounting most hardcover new releases by 25 to 46% for years, and MacMillan is not taking any steps to limit this discounting. With publishers insisting that no discounting be applied to ebooks, the actual terms of comparison should be between $13-$15 ebooks and $15-$18 hardcovers, which doesn’t quite rise to the level of Sargent’s claim of “a tremendous discount from the price of the printed hardcover books.”

The Math of Publishing a Book in Print or Electronic Format

By Stephen Windwalker
Originally posted March 1, 2010 – © Kindle Nation Daily 2010

Motoko Rich, in a piece for the New York Times today, has done a well-researched and elegantly tidy job of illuminating and calculating the costs involved for publishers in publishing books in traditional hardcover as well as ebook format. It’s well worth a look if you’ve been wondering what the real numbers are behind the recent ebook pricing controversy.

Here’s how her numbers play out for a $26 hardcover:

$26.00  Suggested retail price
$13.00  Wholesale proceeds to publisher
$3.25    Production, storage & shipping
$0.80    Pre-press: cover design, typesetting and copy-editing
$1.00    Marketing
$3.90    Author royalties
$4.05    Publisher’s gross margin

She then compares these figures with an ebook at a $12.99 price point:

$12.99  Suggested retail price
$9.09    Wholesale proceeds to publisher
$0.00    Production, storage & shipping
$0.50    Pre-press: cover design, typesetting and copy-editing
$0.78    Marketing
$3.25    Author royalties
$4.57    Publisher’s gross margin

She doesn’t take the next step — which would be to run the numbers at the current ebook retail price point of $9.99, built as is her her $12.99 ebook math around the so-called “agency model” which calls for the retailer to take a 30% cut and send 70% off to the publisher. But here’s how the $9.99 price would look based on the numbers inherent in Rich’s piece:

$9.99    Suggested retail price
$6.99    Wholesale proceeds to publisher
$0.00    Production, storage & shipping
$0.50    Pre-press: cover design, typesetting and copy-editing
$0.78    Marketing
$2.50    Author royalties
$3.22    Publisher’s gross margin

Naturally, different readers may have a different take-away from all this, and Rich’s balanced approach shares useful perspectives from bestselling novelist Anne Rice and several industry insiders.

While it is obvious from these figures and from common sense that both publishers and authors will make more per unit on ebooks priced at $12.99 than they will make on ebooks priced at $9.99, it is equally obvious that the real profits for both parties will come from volume. If an ebook title priced at $9.99 will sell 50 to 100 percent more copies than the same title priced at $12.99, it’s the lower price that will reap more profits and more author royalties.

The other motive for publishers, of course, is based on their concern that ebook sales volumes directly cannibalize hardcover sales volumes, and Rich quotes publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin succinctly on this point: “The simplest way to slow down e-books is not to make them too cheap.”

But there’s another good economic reason why publishers ought to be embracing aggressively priced ebooks, and it is one suggested by industry veteran and chronicler Jason Epstein in his current New York Review of Books piece: “the genteel book business that I joined more than a half-century ago is already on edge, suffering from a gambler’s unbreakable addiction to risky, seasonal best sellers, many of which don’t recoup their costs,” Epstein writes.

As ebooks reach a tipping point where they can actually offset the calculations that a big publisher must make in sizing a 6-to-7-figure print run for a prospective bestseller, they can provide a powerful hedge for the publisher against the kind of huge losses, from unamortized front-end production outlays, that are symbolized so vividly on hundreds of bookstore remainder tables all over the country each year. Regardless of whether it’s price at $12.99 or $9.99, you’ll never see an ebook on a remainder table.

Note: I noticed via Teleread that the Shelf Awareness website challenges the accuracy of the Times piece because many booksellers get less than the 50 percent discount referenced by Rich, but I think S.A. is making a distinction without a difference. Small independent bookstores buy most of their hardcovers not from the publishers but from wholesalers Ingram or Baker & Taylor, and those wholesalers get a 50 to 55 per cent discount from publishers, so the overall economics of a 50% slice hold up pretty well if we are looking at the math from a publisher’s point of view, which is what Rich was doing. 

Around the Kindlesphere: A Magnificent Article by Jason Epstein on "Publishing: The Revolutionary Future"

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d ?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred. 
By Stephen Windwalker
Originally posted February 26, 2010 – © Kindle Nation Daily 2010

It would be possible, from reading the mainstream business and tech media and even at times from reading posts on this blog, to get the idea that everyone associated with the traditional book publishing industry is marching in lockstep with the kind of dinosaur views expressed so cavalierly of late by some publishers, pundits, authors, and $1,959 tablet manufacturers.

Fortunately, this is not the case. While much of the industry continues to speak in unison about its master plan to survive in an ever-more-competitive marketplace by mandating that ebook prices be raised by 30 to 50 percent while demanding smaller wholesale payments from Amazon, there have strong indications from some, including even Big Six publishing executives like Random House’s Madeline McIntosh that there will be significant abstention, perhaps with enough power to reverse the order of march, from the Apple Five’s lemming-like march “into the valley of Death.”

If there is any single individual to whom McIntosh and her colleagues should be paying close attention these days, it’s Jason Epstein. Epstein knows more about the traditional book publishing business than anyone else in the world, having created the Vintage and Anchor paperback imprints for Random House and Doubleday, co-founded the New York Review of Books, and written the best book that I have read on the glory years and the subsequent decline of the best American book publishers of the 20th century. He has demonstrated his openness to new digital publishing directions by co-founding On Demand Books, which manufactures and sells the Espresso Book Machine. His thinking deserves their attention both because he is very much of their industry and also because he understands why it is doomed in its current incarnation and how it can make the most of its own greatest strengths in the changing landscape of 21st century book publishing.

You can get a good sense of what Epstein sees in the first half of this January 2010 interview with Charlie Rose, but for a more comprehensive understanding of where book publishing is and where it is going, I strongly encourage you to read his piece, “Publishing: The Revolutionary Future,” in the March 11 issue of the New York Review of Books.

I use the word “magnificent” to describe Epstein’s piece because he delivers so comprehensively on his stature as perhaps the single individual best positioned to understand its sweep, evident in these first three sentences:

The transition within the book publishing industry from physical inventory stored in a warehouse and trucked to retailers to digital files stored in cyberspace and delivered almost anywhere on earth as quickly and cheaply as e-mail is now underway and irreversible. This historic shift will radically transform worldwide book publishing, the cultures it affects and on which it depends. Meanwhile, for quite different reasons, the genteel book business that I joined more than a half-century ago is already on edge, suffering from a gambler’s unbreakable addiction to risky, seasonal best sellers, many of which don’t recoup their costs, and the simultaneous deterioration of backlist, the vital annuity on which book publishers had in better days relied for year-to-year stability through bad times and good.

Epstein is no partisan of the Kindle or of Amazon: “My rooms are piled from floor to ceiling with books so that I have to think twice about where to put another one,” he says. “If by some unimaginable accident all these books were to melt into air leaving my shelves bare with only a memorial list of digital files left behind I would want to melt as well for books are my life.”

But unlike many ideology-bound pundits he is able to see today’s realities clearly without allow affinity or self-interest to taint views such as these:

  • With the earth trembling beneath them, it is no wonder that publishers with one foot in the crumbling past and the other seeking solid ground in an uncertain future hesitate to seize the opportunity that digitization offers them to restore, expand, and promote their backlists to a decentralized, worldwide marketplace. New technologies, however, do not await permission.
  • The resistance today by publishers to the onrushing digital future does not arise from fear of disruptive literacy, but from the understandable fear of their own obsolescence and the complexity of the digital transformation that awaits them, one in which much of their traditional infrastructure and perhaps they too will be redundant. 
  • [A]ll the world’s books will eventually reside as digital files to be downloaded instantly title by title wherever on earth connectivity exists, and printed and bound on demand at point of sale one copy at a time by the Espresso Book Machine as library-quality paperbacks, or transmitted to electronic reading devices including Kindles, Sony Readers, and their multiuse successors, among them most recently Apple’s iPad. The unprecedented ability of this technology to offer a vast new multilingual marketplace a practically limitless choice of titles will displace the Gutenberg system with or without the cooperation of its current executives.
  • Digitization makes possible a world in which anyone can claim to be a publisher and anyone can call him- or herself an author. In this world the traditional filters will have melted into air and only the ultimate filter—the human inability to read what is unreadable—will remain to winnow what is worth keeping in a virtual marketplace where Keats’s nightingale shares electronic space with Aunt Mary’s haikus. 
  • With inventory expense, shipping, and returns eliminated, readers will pay less, authors will earn more, and book publishers, rid of their otiose infrastructure, will survive and may prosper.
  • Digitization will encourage an unprecedented diversity of new specialized content in many languages. The more adaptable of today’s general publishers will survive the redundancy of their traditional infrastructure but digitization has already begun to spawn specialized publishers occupying a variety of niches staffed by small groups of like-minded editors, perhaps not in the same office or even the same country, much as software firms themselves are decentralized with staff in California collaborating online with colleagues in Bangalore and Barcelona.
  • The cost of entry for future publishers will be minimal, requiring only the upkeep of the editorial group and its immediate support services but without the expense of traditional distribution facilities and multilayered management. 
  • As conglomerates resist the exorbitant demands of best-selling authors whose books predictably dominate best-seller lists, these authors, with the help of agents and business managers, will become their own publishers, retaining all net proceeds from digital as well as traditional sales. 
  • Traditional territorial rights will become superfluous and a worldwide, uniform copyright convention will be essential. 
  • Without the contents of our libraries—our collective backlist, our cultural memory—our civilization would collapse. By the mid-Eighties I had become aware of the serious erosion of publishers’ backlists as shoals of slow-moving but still viable titles were dropped every month. There were two reasons for this: a change in the tax law that no longer permitted existing unsold inventory to be written off as an expense; but more important, the disappearance as Americans left the cities for the suburbs of hundreds of well-stocked, independent, city-based bookstores, and their replacement by chain outlets in suburban malls that were paying the same rent as the shoe store next door for the same minimal space and requiring the same rapid turnover.
  • This demographic shift turned the book business upside down as retailers, unable to stock deep backlist, now demanded high turnover, often of ephemeral titles. Best-selling authors whose loyalty to their publishers had previously been the norm were now chips in a high-stakes casino: a boon for authors and agents with their nonrecoverable overguarantees and a nightmare for publishers who bear all the risk and are lucky if they break even. Meanwhile, backlist continued to decline. The smaller houses, unable to take these risks, merged with the larger ones, and the larger ones eventually fell into the arms of today’s conglomerates.
  • [D]igitization and its buzzword, disintermediation … meant that publishers could now look forward to marketing a practically limitless backlist without physical inventory, shipping expense, or unsold copies returned for credit. Customers would pay in advance for their purchases. This meant that even Amazon’s automated shipping facilities would eventually be bypassed by electronic inventory. This was twenty-five years ago. Today digitization is replacing physical publishing much as I had imagined it would.
  • Relatively inexpensive multipurpose devices fitted with reading applications will widen the market for e-books and may encourage new literary forms, such as Japan’s cell-phone novels. Newborn revolutions often encourage utopian fantasies until the exigencies of human nature reassert themselves. Though bloggers anticipate a diversity of communal projects and new kinds of expression, literary form has been remarkably conservative throughout its long history while the act of reading abhors distraction, such as the Web-based enhancements—musical accompaniment, animation, critical commentary, and other metadata—that some prophets of the digital age foresee as profitable sidelines for content providers.
  • The huge, worldwide market for digital content … is not a fantasy. It will be very large, very diverse, and very surprising: its cultural impact cannot be imagined. E-books will be a significant factor in this uncertain future, but actual books printed and bound will continue to be the irreplaceable repository of our collective wisdom.

At the risk of possibly pushing the limits of fair use, I’ve tried to tempt you with a taste here, but if you care about where reading and the book business are going I anticipate that you will take time to sit down for the entire meal.

Comments from Kindle Nation Survey Respondents: eBook Pricing and Publishers

In addition to responding directly to the questions in the Winter 2010 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey, the 1,892 individuals who responded also recorded hundreds of individual comments that provide some interesting insights into what makes Kindle owners tick. I’m in the process of breaking these down by category to share them here at Kindle Nation Daily. Yesterday I posted individual comments under the heading “The Pleasures of Kindle Reading,” and today’s category covers individual comments on the subject of ebook pricing and the recent controversies with the Big Six book publishers.

While it may be true that not every comment here is well-informed and overflows with wisdom, I couldn’t help comparing the general sentiments expressed again and again with some of the bizarrely anti-consumer, anti-reader statements that I have read lately by publishers like Michael Cader and authors such as Douglas Preston.  I suspect those in the publishing business might have greater success in addressing these issues if they drilled down on these comments by readers and depended less on screeds such as Cader’s for their talking points. Cader’s talking points may be hidden behind a pay wall, but I have read his “essay” in full and his summary points are that anyone who can afford $259 for a Kindle can afford whatever publishers want to charge for ebooks and that that people pay more than $9.99 for ebooks every day, especially outside the U.S. Preston, as you may recall, told the New York Times that he was astonished by the sense of entitlement of Kindle owners, and he accused us of having a Wal-Mart mentality.

What do Kindle owners think? Read on. Each bulleted comment is from a unique individual, and aside from adding the bullets I’ve done no editing here:

  • Only interested in kindle as a reader and the ongoing increase in prices has been disturbing as I read up to 2 or 3 books a week. e books cost less to produce, are publishers really losing money?
  • We just got 2 Kindles and within a month a 50% hike in prices is announced!!!
  • I’m not terribly knowledgeable about the situation, but as a writer, I think Amazon (and Google and others) have the ability to abscond with rights to intellectual property or distribution.  I’m a tad frightened of allowing too much power to any of these entities, including the big publishing houses.
  • The fact is, publishers are in the business to make money. Amazon was selling e-books at a loss in order to gain a significant market advantage in e-books, which is an indication that no matter what price we might like e-books to sell at, they are not profitable at $9.99. If publishers don’t make a profit, then they don’t publish at all. I don’t think that’s a situation we want to be in. Apple’s model in this case is the better model, and I hope Amazon adopts it so we can all read what we want.
  • Without readers neither poublishers or authors have a purpose.  ebooks are here to stay.
  • I have mixed feelings about this. I love cheap eBooks, but without commercial publishers, it will be difficult for authors to focus on writing, and hard for consumers to know about quality books. I strongly believe, however, that the eBooks should be substantially cheaper than the print editions!
  • I don’t want what happened to the music industry to happen to the book/publishing industry.  I want the business model to enable authors to make a lot of money from their work. I think publishers provide an important role as “gatekeepers” they filter out the writers that are not ready for prime-time.  I like the agency model that the publishers are moving towards.  I think this will protect the industry and keep it healthy.
  • Not really interested in paying higher prices for books on Kindle.  I can go to other places, Barnes & Noble for instance, and with thier discounts get the sames hardcopy book with free shipping for nearly what MacMillan wanted Amazon to charge.  Come on MacMillan, wake up and get green and pay your authors a descent percentage and sell electronic books which cost you practically nothing per copy.
  • it’s not about price – it’s about power & control
  • I am not an expert on what is going on between Amazon and publishers.  I WILL NOT pay more than $9.99 for an e-book though.
  • By keeping prices lower, I have read 75-80% more books than I would have at retail prices. I read a lot, but usually do not keep books around after I read them (unless reference titles) so now don’t have to make yearly trips to Goodwill to get rid of books. Publishers are making a lot more from me with discounted e-books than if I went back to buying actual books. More money, less profit, but also less labor and materials. What’s to lose?
  • Amazon rapes the author/publisher by taking 65% of the list price.  the 30% proposed by Apple is far more reasonable.  E books should sell for less than printed ones, but $9.99 is too low, at least as long as Amazon takes 65%
  • Let market set price. Increase in prices will open direct sales by authors as too much is being taken out by publishers
  • The reason I did not buy an ebook earlier (Sony and others) was because I researched how many books were available and the cost of the books.  Amazon has ruled the waves in these areas!
  • no cost for paper, ink or printing. the cost should be much lower. paper back books should cost more than ebooks !
  • Publishers need to adapt and embrace the business benefits of the ebook model
  • i read my Kindle and I also publish a few books for friends on the Kindle page.  We need marketing advice how to promote these books on different sites.
  • “Setting a max ebook price is fine for most books, but for scientific works and the like with a limited potential market, a higher price is quite reasonable.  
  • I am presently working with an author, coding his book for Kindle publication.  He asked his publisher to do this, but the publisher has done nothing in 5 months, probably because with Kindle publication, the money goes to the author, not to the publisher.  I suspect other publishers share this view.”
  • It is much cheaper to develop an ebook – there is no excuse for excessive pricing.
  • The outcomes of the competition among ebooks, publishers, and authors will decide the issue–not my opinion!
  • “Why would a book that costs much less to produce because it does not have to be printed, bound, and shipped, stacked, sold and delivered cost as much as a printed, bound, etc. book?
  • Would the publishers make that much more since they would not be sharing costs with others in production or…. will their costs be the same with smaller publication numbers and so are making up the costs of producing hard copies with ebooks. I think $9.99 should cover that though.”
  • I don’t know why MacMillan cared what price amazon sold the ebooks for, since they were getting an agreed upon price.  Why do they care if Amazon lost money?  If publishers would put out a quality physical product, that didn’t fall apart after just one or two readings, then it would be easier to justify paying for it.  Maybe it’s time for authors to leave the publishers and simply sell their books as ebooks through Amazon…
  • Why would a copy of an ebook cost any more than 9.99. It’s just a digital copy.
  • As a lay person who has little idea of the economics involved in publishing, it would be foolish of me to tell anyone what their prices should be or that they should put the readers’ interests first if it would cause them to fail. Self preservation has to be the first priority of any business.
  • By putting reader’s interests first publishers and authors will sell more books and, therefore, make more money!!  Everyone is happy!  It’s just simple logic.
  • Ebooks should cost less because production costs are less and because they cannot be shared or resond (unlike a conventional book which can be shared multiple times).  There are much fewer costs associated with producing an ebook than a conventional book.  I don’t think publishers care about authors; it’s all about the “bottom dollar”–and I am a Macmillan author, so I speak from experience.
  • I would be willing to pay $14.99 for a new release ebook, not a penny more.  However, if the publisher decides to charge that much then it should be released the same day as the hardcover counter part and the ebook should not contain any errors or glitches.
  • When I buy a book I shop for the lowest price be it electronic, hardback or paperback.  If I do not find a price I like I borrow the book from the library or do without.  If I feel that publisher’s ask too much, I won’t buy the book.
  • I love my Kindle but I still read paperbacks and hard cover books, and any ebook that is over $9.99 I get from my library.  Once a book becomes an e-book, the cost is practially free and all profit. Why does it have to cost so much?? I don’t believe e-readers will put publishers out of business. There are many reasons and people who prefer holding a book. There is room for both.
  • Lousy questions…loaded…cutesy.  If you want good information from a survey, you ask simple, unambiguous questions.
  • I’m a writer and a reader, so I suppose I’m my own worst enemy.
  • I think that ebooks should be cheaper than paperbooks, after all there are no production costs involved.
  • Authors have a right to be paid well for what they do, Publishers have a right to make money in their business,but price-fixing and collusion in any business is illegal.  E-books are the least expensive cost to a publisher and that should be reflected in the price of each e-book.  Increasing the prices on e-books will decrease the amount of books I can purchase although I prefer it as my primary form of reading material.
  • I would have strongly disagreed that Amazon has egg on its face – except that the protracted time it has taken to get hardback buy buttons back hasn’t benefited Amazon; just alienated their print title customers, many who don’t care about Kindle titles. I do care about the Kindle titles and was very distressed to imagine not being able to buy favorite authors books in any format directly from Amazon, but was also distressed that my Prime shipping option wouldn’t work for a Hardback release.
  • First question:  Are you serious?  Publishers are corporations, they are out for themselves.  Period.  The last question. . .publishers:  strongly agree, authors: somewhat disagree
  • There are a lot of ways to get discounted books. ie library, clearouts, ebay, half.com, used book stores. The $30+ price for HC is ridiculous and especially when they can be purchased at a big box store or amazon. There is no way that ebooks should be even close in price to amazon, costco HC. You can resell the print edition, but not with the ebook. Besides if a book is a bestseller, then by defination it will generate a profit to the publishers.
  • I wouldn’t pay more than $9.99 for an e-book (if even that) because it’s not a book I can loan out or share with others if I think it’s really good. I don’t buy hardcovers because of storage space.  If I read a hardcover, I usually borrow it from the library.
  • i just got my kindle in december 2009, based primarily on the 9.99 book price. i typically wait and buy paperbacks and was happy to pay a bit more and have immediate access to new books. the new pricing is very disturbing
  • Publishers do not care about authors, despite their protestations.
  • I have tried to understand this issue, but I find it very complicated and I remain unsure of what is fair and unfair to each of the parties involved. Certainly ebooks should be *much* less expensive than hardcovers, but I’m not sure what the price point for either should be. Certainly authors should be paid adequately for their work, but again I don’t know how that is best determined. Publishers, it seems, will have to adopt new business models to fit with new technologies.
  • The $9.99 pricepoint was a MAJOR consideration in my choice to purchase an ereader when I did and the one of the major deciding factors of which ereader to purchase.  As a major reader and book purchaser I’d been watching the development of them for years comparing those available, their price points as well as their features.  Budget is very important to me and I seldom can afford to purchase a hard cover when newly released, I would either get on the library list or wait for the paperback.
  • I am willing to pay more then $10 for some ebooks, Never more then $15 for a new release and certainly feel they should be significantly less then the price of hardcover or paperback (whichever format is currently int he bookstores)
  • I don’t know this for a fact, but I tend to think that Publishers are only out for their own interests…not the authors.  The Publishers don’t have to do much (if anything) to publish e-books.  Save lots of money with e-books.  Authors ought to get ALL the money generated from e-books and Publishers should get NONE of the money generated from e-books.  I am not an author…but we all know the Publishers have gotten rich off the backs of authors!
  • I bought the kindle because the prices were originally about $4 for a paperback and $9.99 for a hardback.  Now that prices are over $6 for most mass market editions, I’m back to going to the library and used book stores.  Unhappy that the Wall Street Journal has jumped 50% since I first purchased the kindle, and it’s not nearly as good as the print version.   Also, disappointed that Text to speech, a selling point for K-2 is disabled for so many Kindle editions.
  • The book that sells the most and creates the biggest stir with awards may have been the easiest to write –The Road, IMO. The book that was researched for 25 years and finally released — but nobody read it??  It’s tough to establish pricing and stick to a single formula. A fluff piece may be the writing of a lifetime. The hard to write, and the writer nearly starved to death — may be a flop commercially. I see many books as exceptions to any rules.
  • Amazon may have blinked first but I believe, as E readers, we can reinforce the point they were making by boycotting expensive Ebooks.
  • Because iPad has yet to launch, collusion is tough to prove. But if they stay the course, sue the bastards!
  • I think publishers and authors are in business to make money and I think they every right to. It just seems to me that publishing by ebook is a lot cheaper and should eventually provide for a wider distribution of books, magazines etc at much reduced costs.
  • “i read that macmillian with their price increase is now actually getting LESS money than they were at 9.99 …  eventually, publishers will go the way of record labels …
  • and i find i read a lot of FREE content on my kindle anyway”
  • Isn’t competition supposed to drive prices down?  Isn’t lower cost of production supposed to equal lower cost of goods?
  • “1) without readers there is no need to publish
  • 2) e-books are more economical for the publisher and the reader and better for the environment”
  • “I believe that Amazon caved to the publishers (starting with MacMillan) because it fits their own interests. They will make more money selling the ebooks for a higher price, and it gets them off the hook with many by claiming they tried to honor their original commitment to keep best sellers at the $9.99 price. Now they can put the blame for higher prices on the publishers.
  • As for the publishers there is no way that they will convince me that it costs as much to produce an ebook as a hardcover.”
  • $9.99 without the ability to lend it or give it to someone is too much.  Charge less or let us give them away.
  • I stopped buying HardBks in 2006, even w/ coupons, discounts, &Costco the price was $16- $18.  I now buy ebook immediately at around $10-$11 instead of waiting for paperback ( w/ coupons were $5-$6).  Guess what, I’ve found tons of independent authors I love and who are happy to sell me books $5 or less.  I will not buy ebook OR physical books from a publisher who is trumping up the price, I have choices. I am comfortable w/ up to $11.99 for an ebook I don’t own, can’t sell or get get signed.
  • I appreciate Amazon taking a position and informing Kindle owners of same.
  • Some ebooks are already price outrageously, even more than the the soft cover price and much too close to the hard cover price!
  • Publishers 7 authors are of course interested in their bottom line.  Keeping readers happy should improve that bottom line so it should always be a consideration for them, but not their sole purpose.  That would be naive to think.
  • I don’t see any reason for fiction books to be priced more than $5. But there are many other kinds of non-fiction that probably have to cost more than $10 because the market is too small to support accurate research otherwise.
  • One of the main incentives (other than portablility) for the Kindle is the money saving aspect on newly published books.  The $9.99 price tag is very appealing to me.
  • I am sympathetic to authors, however I can’t afford to pay any more for e-books. If the prices go up I will go back to using he library.
  • with the absence of traditional publication costs and the reaching of a large audience the ebook prices should be kept low. Many people still love the feel of a book in their hand and I don’t believe paper will be going away.  I will personally alter my kindle book buying if bestsellers and other titles are in the $13-15 dollar range vs $9.99
  • In the long run, if you cater to your market you will always come out on top.  To get what you want you need to help enough others get what they want.
  • As long as most publishers insist on “protecting” ebooks with DRM, and Amazon (and presumably Apple) aid and abet them, the squabbles between them on pricing are irreleant.  Both Baen and O’Reilly have demonstrated that offering ebooks without DRM can be done profitably, to highly technical audiences well capable of pirating them if desired.
  • If prices were higher I would not be able to purchase the books I do.  And receiving a free sample of the books makes a huge difference
  • The reason I bought the Kindle was because I could read more books since they weren’t so expensive.
  • I feel ebooks,  at least some, are WAY overpriced. I read a analysis by an author on how much she actually makes, compared to the selling price, and it was a surprise to me. On the low end! In some ways, we could argue that ebooks are subsidizing print books since the marginal cost of an ebook approaches a number close to zero. A print book —  it’s costs are set at the beginning, sold or not.
  • “I have purchased new Kindle books BECAUSE I get a better price on them than hard copies.  If the prices weren’t as good, I would have passed on getting the books and discovering new authors.  In this economy, any way to save money helps.   
  • What publishers don’t say is that once a digital book is read, it can’t be given away or resold like a book.  The Kindle audience is much smaller than hard copy audience, so digital sharing can’t have nearly the impact Napster had on music.”
  • I obviously haven’t kept up with this controversy.
  • I think $9.99 is a reasonable price for a bestselling e-book.  I would not pay anymore than that, regardless of the author.  Since I’ve gotten so many free or very low priced e-books, I don’t feel guilty spending $9.99 for some books.  I still would not pay more than that though.
  • “I don’t know enough about the publishing industry to have an opinion about most of these questions. I have read some of what is currently going on, but still do not know enough.
  • #2 is really a two part question. I don’t know if hardcover books are overpriced, but I definitely believe that the ebooks should be less.”
  • Don’t believe hardcovers are necessarily overpriced. Do think ebooks should be much cheaper.
  • 72 year old man on s. s. will be going to library if prices get to high
  • I don’t have an understanding of the intricacies of publishing, but it stands to reason that it costs far more in materials to publish a physical book than to provide a digital copy of that same book.  Therefore pricing a digital, intangible form of reading material at a similar level as a physical book makes the average, uneducated reader suspicious, and less likely to pay a higher price.
  • “Yes, the writer is, after all, writing for the reader. 
  • Don’t get too hubristic, Amazon, in this “”war”” with other publishers–this is a transitional phase in publishing that requires skillful diplomacy at times.”
  • bought the kindle to have $9.99 prices.  Love my kindle.  Wouldn’t trade it for world, but really need prices kept in line.
  • I feel that if you pay the money to buy a kindle and you don’t actually get the tangible product you should be able to purchase top sellers for less that $5
  • Most books written today are simply ‘bad books’ and I get back at the publisher and author by not buying them.  The same will be said if the price is jacked up…..
  • Publishers and authors will promote self-interest that requires consideration of reader’s interests, as well as their own adequate compensation–but not satisfying their excessive greed.
  • Since e-book prices can be easily changed, I suggest they start out high before the release of the hard copy, then drop to less than hard copy when that is released, drop again when paperback is released and in general keep flexible to drop the price as the demand goes down until they reach a floor for the long tail.
  • What the publishers don’t get is that a lot of us prefer to read most content on our Kindles. I also check books out of the library. Since I read over 100 books a year, I cannot afford to buy all of them. I don’t buy hard cover or soft cover fiction, so e-books and the library are my only choices. If the publishers price the e-books too high, I will be getting most new fiction from the library in contrast to getting at least half as e-books, which I do now.
  • Publishers must be able to make a profit to insure the capabilities needed for mass distribution and promotion. However, I see the ebook industry opening up many more opportunities for nitch markets which are not well served by big publishers.
  • I, for one, will not pay more than $9.99 for an e-book.
  • Authors and publishers are making millions as it is.  E-Books should also be able to be given to others, just like a paper book.
  • eBook should be much cheaper than traditional (hard & paperback) because of the electonic capabilities.  The publishers are price fixing and unreasonable.
  • It seems as though they may sell more at the ebook price compared to the book store price, so it should be an advantage.  The author should not take a cut, the publisher should… I buy books that I would never buy in hardcover because they are too expensive.  I love the opportunity to purchase them at 9.99.
  • Part of the reason for purchasing the Kindle was the reasonable price for just released books.  I am unhappy with the news regarding ipad release and discussions of Steve Jobs and prices being manipulated.  Wonder if Amazon will cave in on the prices or is just waiting things out. As a senior citizen and fulltime RVer rising costs and fixed earnings means book pricing is important to me.  I’d hate to go back to trading paperbacks while my Kindle collects dust.
  • Authors need to make a living. Publishers price the books, and I prefer to read them less expensively on Kindle.
  • Authors should get paid.  Publishers should expect less and authors need to be more involved in self-publishing.  Without need for big presses, publishing becomes less important.
  • Publishers have less to offer both the reader and the author than they once had. They should get less and the author more of the price.
  • Come on, publishing, writing, distributing are businesses…how many times have businesses put customers first?  It sounds good, though.
  • Realize that this is business, and as usual the consumer is the one that suffers. Personally, this makes me so angry, I would go back to reading paperbacks and sharing books with friends.
  • I think the publishers and Amazon need to figure out a strategy for making ebooks similar in price to paperbacks. I wouldn’t mind waiting a few months after the hardbound book is published to get the ebook.But I really feel ripped off paying a premium over paperbacks and get an ephemeral object that I can’t share with others.
  • Without readers willing to pay a fair price, the authors and publishers would fail.  They are trying to flex their muscles and extort exaggerated prices for ebooks and I personally think it will backfire and hurt them in the long run.  I will find myself looking for up and coming authors who offer their work at a reasonable rate.  There is minimum cost in publishing ebooks and that should be reflected in the price to the consumer.
  • I do not have enough time or money to buy every book, so an important part of my purchase decision will be when the e-book is released and at what price. The higher the price or longer delay from hardcover release, the less likely I will be to ever purchase that title.
  • All books, regardless of author and publisher, should be made available in ALL formats and that includes ebooks.  All anyone wants to do is read, and we need to teach that at a very young age.  Limiting the printed word to only one form is wrong.  Whatever happened to “Reading is Fundamental?”  If we believed that, then all written words should be available in all formats, not just DTB’s or electronically.  Authors & publishers are hurting themselves and doing all mankind a huge disservice.
  • Publishers have been griping against e-readers ruining their hard book sales when they should be thrilled people are increasing their reading with the Kindle.  They should view e-readers as a new way to sell their books, not penalize us for doing so.
  • At higher than $9.99 per ebook, I will buy less books.
  • Either way, for the books I want to read, I’m screwed with a Kindle, and probably with any other device. Sadly disappointed that most good 20th century books are not available.
  • I have talked to authors who say that they really take a hit with ebooks. I don’t mind paying more for newly published ebooks. I feel that high prices are offset by much lower prices for older books.
  • The $9.99 price seems like a reasonable price since I usually wait for books to be remaindered before purchase unless needed immediately.
  • Personally, I will not pay more than $9.99 for a book, so if they want to play games they should be prepared to have less sales.
  • authors and publishers both should get their fair share.  Put the price too high and I go to bit torrent
  • Once the cost of translating it to E-book format is covered, there is very little cost for a publisher on an ebook and no disadvantages (such as unsold returns or out of stock due to unanticipated sales). The cost of an ebook should be less than the cost of a hardcover (certainly) and a paperback (once it comes out in paperback).  There is no problem with charging a little more for a hardcover when it first comes out, but it certainly shouldn’t be the same cost as for the hardcover book itself.
  • Some ebook prices may need to be higher, especially if publishers move towards school texts.
  • Publishers should stand up for their authors and if ebooks are to highly priced there is always the library! Hardbacks are high, not necessarily overprice and yes ebooks should be cheaper they are ‘green’. Publishers and authors are trying to make profet or income – so is Amazon – the readers will ‘do’ what best meets their purpose.
  • I may be willing to pay more than $9.99 for an e-book, but it will be rare and the book better be available the moment the hard-cover is available and it better not have any formatting errors or editing errors (in excess of what the hard cover edition has)
  • I believe that ebooks should be cheaper than the printed copy.
  • will go back to library and drop buying books if prices go up.
  • Producing and distrubing books paperlessly should keep the price down and many more books availabe to read and at the same time paying the authors a better amount for their product.
  • I strongly dissagree with the first statement simply because big publishers are not in this for the authors, they are in it for the money.  I would imagine the authors get paid the same either way. Publishing companies loose out on the price of printing and storage, they are just trying to gouge the readers and make up for that with the idea of raising the price of e-books
  • The big publishers seem to be desperate to prop up what is fast becoming an obsolete product – hardback books.
  • Ebooks should be cheaper. Once an ebook is created there is no other cost involved.  You can make as many copys as you want for little to no cost.  A paper book on the other hand has a lot of costs associated with it.  Paper, printing, distribution, sales, etc.
  • I strongly belive in capitalism and the right of authors and publishers to make money. But, to have e-book prices anywhere near the price of a hardcover or even paperback is rediculous. I don’t mind paying for content but when I am not using paper, when I am not requiring a warehouse, and when I do not require UPS or FedEx then I expect to somewhat of a discount reflective of the lower cost.
  • I had a lot of respect for Amazon for standing up to MacMillan – I no longer do.  It is unlikely that I will be buying e-books at the proposed prices.  I will read what I have and will use my local library, I will not participate in assisting people to rip off consumers to fill the pockets of publishers who refuse to move to a new and innovative model or others who  insist on gauging the consumer.
  • A writer myself, I think authors are being excluded from the conversation almost exclusively.  Unless they are a blockbuster author, they are being ignored.
  • It is ridiculous to expect an eboook purchaser to pay more for a book that the publishers don’t have to spend as much money to produce.
  • I think that ebooks should be priced lower than hardbacks. If you look at 14 compared to a store’s price on a hardback, that is a significant savings. The issue is complicated because amazon lowers prices on hardbacks, so then people expect ebooks to be discounted from there. I don’t know the solution but I believe authors should recieve fair pay for their work.
  • If authors wish to pay publishers large fees for editing, promotion, production and distribution this is up to them, but they should also be (and generally are) free to sell their content / intellectual property directly to readers.
  • I have always bought paperbacks in the $12 $14 range I THINK $10 is an acceptable price considering only one person can read it and I do not get $2.50 back at the local when I have finnished with it and I cannot lend it to my freinds
  • eBooks should always cost less the lowest print price of a book, especially because of DRM. I can’t trade it or sell it like a DTB, and there’s less cost in creating it than there is for a DTB.
  • I believe that publishers & authors should charge what they believe the market will bear. This is a free market society. If they price their e-books too high they will not get purchased. I sometimes pay over 9.95 for an ebook if I really want to read the book when it first comes out but usually wait until they are less than 9.95
  • Given the state of the economy and limited resources for producing paper books, I would think that publishers might want to venture into the electronic age more. People don’t have the kind of disposable income to buy several hard back books anymore. By using an electronic medium which reduces the overall costs of producing such works, you could charge a reasonable fee and still have a readership following. If publishers don’t find a way to move with the times, I am afraid they will be overtaken.
  • All books are different, so I understand that not every e-book can  be $9.99. I have bought biographies, histories, non-fiction current event books and long-form fiction (1000 pages+) at higher prices. But just as I pay less for mass-market paperbacks, I expect to pay significantly less for text-only digital delivery and I will not buy any book that is overpriced, period. Which is why I have declined to buy a lot of recent trade paper priced over $12 no matter the author.
  • Ultimately keeping prices low will work to the benefit of the publishers.  I know that I will buy more books since I have a Kindle than I otherwise would.  If prices go up, it’s back to the library.
  • So what are the publishers saying, that because some people want a pretty cover, all people should pay the same price for different versions of the same item.  Have they shopped for cars lately?  I’ll bet they pay a different price for Folgers they brew at home vs. Starbucks the grab & go…
  • Free market should win out, customers will show with their dollars their views.  Price fixing should not be allowed.
  • Amazon made a nice move when they stood up to a publisher to keep prices down, but whether that was a good decision or not is beyond my ability to know.
  • I never seem to want to pay even the $9.99 price for the run of the mill fiction book the prices remain high for a lot of my favorite authors. I do buy the paper back books and trade them in for 1/2 price but can’t do that with e_Books.
  • I believe the market needs to dictate ebook prices.  If publishers/retailers raise ebook prices to 14.99, for ex., and readers don’t want to buy books at that price, then they won’t.  The prices need to adjust based on purchases.  If no one buys at 14.99 but many buy at 9.99, then price it at 9.99.
  • “Amazon is now charging $9.99 for the Kindle version of a 3 year old paperback book. I was about to buy this one when the dispute broke out at $6.50. I will not buy it now.
  • I will tend to not buy anything priced over $10 for Kindle.  Due to the much reduced cost of “publishing” and ebook, the cost should be markedly reduced!
  • an ebook should be a lot less than a hardback or paperback book because an ebook is intangible,and I can by various means lose my ebooks,by theft,by not replacing a worn out kindle, by just getting tired of reading ebooks and finding a physical copy more satisfying. I can always keep a physical copy and trade it,or have multiples
  • I am disappointed that Amazon did not stick to their guns but understand that they need to follow  business model and giving up may have been in their best interest.  It was their business, not mine, to make that decision.
  • Let’s let the market run its course and sort things out. Getting self-righteous doesn’t help anything. If MacMillan is overpricing its books, the market will let it know.
  • NA
  • The publishers claim that they make money on paper backs with printing costs, distribution costs,retail store costs, and return costs, yet lose money on ebooks is insultingly absurd on its face.
  • Those are tough questions – as an individual, I want the most for my money – However, an author should have the right to get as much as he or she can for their labors.  The real question should be – how much does an author get for selling an e-book and how much more does the author sell in quantity on an e-book as compared to a hard cover? Is e-book selling profitible?  Maybe Amazon needs to give more to the author and keep our prices lower-Is there a compromise?
  • I love my Kindle; if book ebook prices are too high, I shall find better economic means – the market will fix this issue; I shall vote with my feet.
  • I strongly believe that if ebook prices are kept at a reasonable price, more will be purchased, which will surely put more money in the pockets of  the publishers and authors!
  • How dare the publishers try to make e books more expensive?  Books are much more expensive to produce than e  books are.
  • Publishers need to remember those of us whom comsider the top 10 lists crap
  • All parties concerned need to consider the readers’ needs first
  • A book without a reader is a waste of someone’s time, energy, and resources. Every writer has an intended audience. That audience should be at the foremost of their decisions or there is no point in the book’s existence.
  • I am not sure what the issue is–shouldn’t ebooks be nearly 100% profit–no paper, ink, postage etc?
  • The day is coming when publishers will be cut out of the distribution loop with authors dealing with e-publishers directly, benefitting both the authors (hopefully better royalties and easier access to publication) and readers (lower prices for e-books and more selection).
  • As an author, I’m not exactly unbiased!
  • “Prior to Kindle purchase, I primarily purchased paperbacks or trades. I rarely purchased hardcovers due to price and physical size.
  • Since Kindle purchase, I doubt I will spend much on paperbacks due to the comfort level of using a Kindle/eBook Reader with a large font size.
  • Since I imagine hard costs of producing an eBook would be less than the cost of a hard cover or paperback, I can only attribute the desire for higher eBook prices as greed on the publisher’s part.”
  • In today’s electronic world, especialy in this troubled economy, books should be affordable and accessible in electronic format as well as print.
  • I actually would like to see the flexible price plan that MacMillan has suggested it wants to use in action. It might give the customer more control over pricing of ebooks in the long run.
  • I don’t care about who gets paid for what, I only care about the bottom line , how much is it going to cost ?
  • The free market will prevail in this issue…if books (e-books or paper) are over-priced, they simply will not sell.
  • As I understand it, MacMillan want more leeway to set their price. (like initially the book premiers at 14.99 and as demand goes down, they would reduce the price to keep the books moving). I have an issue that 15 is too high for an e-book. Maybe 9.99 is too low as well, but I don’t like the books that I want to read not being available or being more than I want to spend for something that doesn’t have any printing or storage costs.
  • Big publishers are only looking out for themselves and their dollars, not their authors.
  • This whole thing is quite complicated and I expect my answers are somewhat inconsistent because of that complexity. As a reader I would love low e-book prices but if I were a writer I might feel very differently about it.
  • I am perfectly happy with prices.  Love the books and have no complaints.  Best gift I ever got.
  • Ebooks represent hugh savings in manufacturing costs.  This should be passed on to the consumer.  Kindle books cannot be resold.  This also must be taken into consideration.
  • “Things are quite strange right now.  Example Stephen King’s latest $35 in stores and $7.20 at Kindle.  (Good book, big,  interesting read.)  $9.99 for lesser quality / lesser priced book by other well known writer.  Some A list authors are not available at all.
  • Things art in flux but ultimately the laws of supply and demand ought to start shaping the market.
  • Authors, like everyone else, need to be rewarded for their labor.”
  • Made the best choices I could from the selections, but some don’t really do a great job at reflecting how I feel.  I don’t feel Hardcovers are as overpriced but strongly feel ebooks should be much cheaper due to the fact that you do not own any physical property that can be passed around, sold, etc.  Also, I don’t think ebooks should never be more than $9.99, but I feel it is a good pricepoint for everyday novels.
  • If regular print books are worth $25….then electronic books are truly only worth NO MORE than $9.99.
  • Publishers should be careful or they may find themselves suffering as the record industry has suffered. Access to indie books/small publishers has been one of the things I have enjoyed most about my Kindle.
  • I will not pay more than $9.99 a book! The free books gets me to read other author which then I may buy a book from that author I would have never bought.
  • publishers and authors should realize that lower prices will mean more sales and more readers. More readers will mean more knowledge of the talents of the author and more popularity will mean more sales. Before Amazon and kindle, I got  a large portion of my reading material at the library and free books off the net. Now I spend more and get more. Love it–plus I don’t have to find space to store or place to donate to. Love the kindle. My budget limits my purchases so more expensive is no no.
  • I will not claim that having a wide range of electronic books available at $10 has not been attractive, but books will be priced at what the market will carry. If no one is buying them, the prices will come down. I don’t mind paying $12-$15 for an electronic title. What I do mind is when publishers demand the same profit formula for electronic books as they do for print. Electronic versions cut their margins significantly and their margin (not the author’s) should benefit the customer.
  • I am not paying over the 9.99 for books I read for fun.  I do pay more for technical books however they do not display the best on my K1.  If Kindle book prices creep up I’ll either go back to yard sale paperbacks or wait until the price goes down.  I purchased the kindle partly for convenience of having lots of books some technical some fun with me in my purse and also to buy best sellers at a more affordable price.  I currently buy many more books than before the Kindle.
  • With the prices so reasonable, I am able to buy 4x the amount of books!  So far, in 8 months I purchased aver 100 books for about $250.00.  And I haven’t even started to replace all my favorite paper books that are in my library. If prices go up, then I don’t think the Kindle was worth the investment.  Especially if they come out with new versions that you will need to upgrade every few years as the others become obsolete.
  • I feel that the publishers are wrong to pressure Amazon to accept the new agent structure, under the threat of withholding ebook releases for several months. I believe Steve Job’s comment proved that they are in collusion, and I hope there will be an investigation. (Although the publishers would probably pass on the legal reps cost to us through even higher ebook prices.
  • The economics of ebooks can only logically dictate a lower price than paper.  There is no warehouseing, shipping, handling, etc…  Why should I pay more for an item with far less actual cost than a paper book???
  • I think that we as readers show authors and publishers our interests and opinions by our dollars.  We support the ones that we enjoy by buying them.  I find it interesting that there is much less of a product in an ebook yet the publishers that are arguing with Amazon want the same price for something that is a lot more intangible.  Amazon is taking the hit for delivery of the books to the Kindle so what is the publisher expecting to be paid for, exactly?
  • I honestly haven’t been keeping up with all the flap, although I’ve heard that there IS a flap!  I don’t know enough about it to give an informed opinion, but I tried where I could.
  • power to the people
  • The big publisher are not serving their customers.  Most companies that do not serve their customers eventually go out of business.
  • I think as long as Amazon is giving the publishers their cut it doesn’t matter the price of the ebook.  I also believe that the lower the cost of the books the more people will buy.  We have to be more selective with the $9.99 titles but the under $5 we can buy more.
  • I simply do not understand why e-books have to be expensive.  They are saving a fortune.  They make an electronic file to sell over and over again. They do not have to make or ship anything. What am I missing here?
  • I don’t have to be consistent.
  • You can’t have it both ways: Amazon shouldn’t be colluding with the publishers for price-fixing any more than Apple should. I think it is probably going to be up to the readers to refuse to buy books at the higher prices. There are thousands of classics that can be read in e-book form for free. I have never been much inclined to buy full-price hardbacks, and I will not now start paying hardback-prices for e-books.
  • Regarding the last question, authors and readers should be equal.  Publishers, including Amazon, Apple, MacMillan should be as important as the typewriter.
  • There has got to be a happy medium.  I don’t have a solution and I don’t pretend too, but someone is getting rich and I assume it is neither the author nor Amazon.
  • I’m a huge library user and love my Kindle for convience while traveling.  I buy books from Amazon and also get the free books, but if prices go too high I will revert back to more library use.
  • Lumping publishers and authors together in the last question is a mistake; publishers and authors have completely opposite interests.
  • Don’t combine two questions that need different answers. I do not think that hardcovers are overpriced, at least not when followed later by paperbacks. I do think that many e-books should be much cheaper than hardcover prices, at some point after release.
  • I think authors need to make more money but I feel that when publishers do not have to pay for the manufacture of physical books they can and should keep them cheaper.
  • I’m going to do my best to buy ebooks only from indies and other reasonably priced sources from now on.  I can get the expensive bestsellers from the library for free.
  • Like any commodity, luxury items sell well when the economy is good and not so much when the economy is poor.  That aside, books should be available at whatever price the market will bear.  This is capitalism.  If the price is too high, that will reflect in sales.  Publishers will reduce prices accordingly.  Let the public decide the price by either buying or not.
  • “perhaps i am being over-simplistic but i think:
  • 1. figure the total cost to publish the hard cover book, including all printing and delivery costs.   2.deduct the cost of printing and delivery [including paper/ink/glue/etc].   3.give the percentage usually given to bookstores to the elecronic distributer.   4. give the rest to the publisher and author.
  • that way, everyone gets what they are used to getting; and the reader gets the savings.”
  • e-books need to cost less than physical books because they cannot be shared.  Inherent in the digital book concept is a cost-savings, and a less flexible product.
  • I paid more than $9.99 for one of my first Kindle boos when I first got it.  I never thought of $9.99 as a line in the sand, but rather as a goal.
  • pricing should be determined by market, not artificially held (by publishers). I truly can’t understand how publishers think it will work to charge $12-15 for an ebook, when the hardcover version will be discounted to $10. Let the market decide the price, regardless of cost.
  • the questions do not get to the real issues.  Some books do have greater value than others, but ebooks cannot be shared or resold, and there is less cost to distribute. they should be priced lower and Amazon should have the right to resell at whatever cost makes good sense to them.  They negotiated a price with publishers (50% of list) and then should have freedom to re-price.  If book is too much, I won’t buy it.
  • I don’t know any numbers but my guess is that publishers take to much of a cut. They are there only for distribution, how they distribute has to keep up with the times and technology. They should be operating on as small a margin as possible so the producer gets paid and the consumer gets the best deal available.
  • I think that authors should get paid more, and publishers should get paid less. They’re like pimps, seems to me. I think that ebooks are grotesquely overpriced.
  • I don’t recall hearing a price problem between Amazon and publishers until the ipad was announced.  It does sound like something went on between Apple and the publishers regarding raising the prices on e-books.
  • Ebooks save publishers the cost of ink, paper, binding, etc..  Even 9.99 is too high for all the publisher saves.  They are gouging like vultures.
  • It seems that publishers think that e-readers can’t figure out that there is almost 0 extra cost in offering e-book additions of their books. No paper cost, shipping etc.  So why do they think we should pay the same price that we could pay for the book at a discount bookstore.
  • The fact that I can’t loan an e-book (like a regular book) means to me that they should cost less.
  • If they raise the prices, I might as well buy hardbacks to have something to show for my money.
  • Jobs is thinking of his own selfish interests again.
  • When Amazon already discounts hard cover books to half the publisher’s price, then pricing Kindle version at $9.99 is not too low – it seems to me that if the publishers are going to complain, it should be that Amazon is discounting the hard cover books by too much.
  • i will not pay anyhing over 9.99 for an ebook. I can easily wait until the book is at Sam’s or Costco or go to the library or borrow it elsewhere.
  • Publishers weren’t standing up for authors. They were standing up for themselves.  If it is for the authors’ benefit, give them the money!  But if e-books continue to evolve, authors and readers will finally be able to tell publishers where to go.
  • The cost of ‘real’ books is too high. eBooks, especially as Amazon has implemented them, are a ‘lesser’ product (can’t give them away, can’t lend them, etc.) and should cost less.
  • I don’t know enough about the publishing business or the writing business to some of these matters.  Normally I do not buy hardbacks because, for the most part, I prefer reading and/or carrying paperbacks – especially when I travel.  When I do buy hardbacks I usually buy them when they are deeply discounted.  If I want to read one when it is first published, I will usually get it from the library.
  • Publishing is bloated andno longer a viable business model.  Authors should just make deals with Amazon directly and cut out the publishers.
  • I think that when a book goes into mass production paperback form the price of the ecopy should also go down.
  • “Oh of course almost everyone’s (e.g. Amazon, publisher and authors) goal is to make as much money as possible.
  • Paying current authors is one thing, but I dislike paying high prices for authors estates and famalies long after they have died.”
  • I only purchase kindle content that is 9.99 or less
  • I was so angry when I found out about this. I really don’t think that the Publisher even has the author in mind. I think they have their own bottom line in mind. Books are too expensive (and that includes paperbacks) so I don’t buy them unless I have a coupon or a discount. It only makes sense that an e-book should be a lot less because there is no physical item and it is very inexpensive to disseminate it. I think that this would be great news for publishers because we can afford to buy more.
  • The way Amazon ebooks work, you can’t share.  If you buy a hardcover book it can be shared with anyone, ebooks can’t unless you pass your ereader around.  This is a problem.  I live with my sister, we both have Kindles with our own accounts and can’t share a book other than sharing the actual Kindle.   We sometimes both buy the ebook when we would only buy the hardcover once.
  • hardcover and paperbacks are discounted at Walmart, Target, etc.
  • I will never, under any circumstance, pay more than 50% of the best physical book price for an ebook. For most new-release hardbacks, this is $9.99. For most paperbacks, this is $6. If the ebook is too expensive, it’s not hard to find it by other means.
  • Readers interests count (a lot) but profit must be made.  Also, we want to see items published and that won’t “sell” but should be brought to light.
  • Book publishing is big business and there is going to be a constant tug-of-war to set and re-set prices.  Ultimately, the consumers will decide who wins.  For a while.  Then it starts up again!
  • Let the free market work
  • The reader’s interests will ultimately be served by the free market. Author’s should be fairly paid for their work, and the price that reader’s are willing to pay will contribute the the determination of what is “fair”.
  • I find the agency model insulting. In a country that is the beacon of free enterprise, a cartel has been created. We have seen how OPEC fixes prices and cares nothing for countries and consumers, but only for its interests. This will happen in books with the need agency model. How dare a publisher mandate how a retailer will price? It used to be a recommended retail price! This is about the publishers protecting themselves, not authors or readers interests. It’s criminal.

Click here to see complete, detailed results of the survey, and keep your dial tuned to Kindle Nation Dailyhere on the web or here to have posts pushed directly to your Kindle — for ongoing breakdowns of the significance of the survey results.

Additional Survey Results, coming soon:

What If Big Six Market Share Leader Random House Breaks Ranks with the Apple Five?

By Stephen Windwalker
Originally posted February 16, 2010 – © Kindle Nation Daily 2010

“The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing,” said novelist Douglas Preston in a direct reference to Kindle owners in the New York Times last week, but Preston’s equally astonishing notion that we in Kindle Nation are governed by “the Wal-Mart mentality” misses the mark by plenty.

Much of the reporting about the ebook pricing controversy has strongly suggested that Steve Jobs and the Apple Five (thanks to The Kindle Chronicles podcaster Len Edgerly for this currently apt label for MacMillan, Hachette, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins) will have their way and impose 30% to 50% price increases on Kindle Store bestsellers and new releases by the end of March, so it should not be surprising if Kindle owners’ backs are up.

It’s true that a majority of respondents in the Winter 2010 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey is ready to take a stand against anticipated increases in Kindle Store ebook prices above the $9.99 figure that Amazon has associated with bestsellers and new releases since the Kindle’s launch over two years ago, but inside the numbers are some indications of flexibility:

  • 54% disagreed somewhat or strongly with the statement “I will probably pay $10 to $14.99 for new ebook titles if necessary,” but a significant number (37%) agreed with the statement and another 52% disagreed with the statement that “I will never pay more than $9.99 for an ebook.”
  • Given further choices, 75% agreed with the statement “I’ll pay over $9.99, but only rarely when I simply must have an ebook,” and 33% said they would pay more for professional or technical books.

With this range of views,  there may be significant numbers of Kindle owners who occasionally pay more than $9.99, and indeed there have been many Kindle books that have sold briskly with double-digit prices during the past two years. Kindle owners are by their very nature likely to be too  fair-minded and attuned to subtleties to participate in a totally unified boycott based on price or any other single, simple factor.

While it will be fascinating both to me and, perhaps, to the U.S. Department of Justice to study the array of ebook prices in the Kindle Store and in other venues like Apple’s yet-to-be-opened iBooks store on April Fool’s Day, it may be more telling to see where they settle out on May Day, Independence Day, or Thanksgiving Day. In the interim, competition may have its effects in more traditional ways than we have seen so far, and the behavior of Random House, the largest of the Big Six in U.S. operations, may ultimately say the most about how this drama shakes out. As reported here earlier, a key Random House senior executive indicated to a confab of booksellers a few days ago that her company could pursue an independent course on ebook pricing instead of trying to impose its own retail pricing wisdom on a company — Amazon — that knows more about price elasticity and its own customers than anyone else in the world.

Kindle owners now say in large numbers (73%) that they have become more price-conscious as a result of the recent price controversy, and an overwhelming 87% in our survey disagreed with the rather broad statement that “publishers know their costs, so I’m happy to pay the prices they set.” If Amazon’s temporary deletion of MacMillan titles was intended to send an implicit message about the extent to which key players should be viewed as benign or malignant, it worked: a remarkable 68% of our respondents agreed with the statement that “Jeff Bezos and Amazon have my back, and I know they price things to sell.”

Some may think this perspective is an indication that Kindle owners are bellying up to the Bezos Family Kool-Aid Stand in large numbers, but given the significant and growing role that ebook readers will continue to play in the retail book business, publishers who fail to pay close attention may be risking more than they can afford to risk.

One Kindle Nation citizen commented, on an earlier post here, that “some anti-publisher bias is understandable” in the survey results, give the “kindle specific audience” of Kindle Nation Daily, but the comment itself is commentary on the extent to which important things have changed. The book publishing industry is not Big Oil, Big Pharma, or the Wall Street Bonus Bankers. Not all that long ago it was widely seen by the American reading public as being composed of venerable houses and imprints that were well-deserving of the roles we granted them as gatekeepers and arbiters of taste and quality. The idea that large numbers of voracious readers hold something like an anti-publisher bias represents a stunning fall from grace.

If Random House breaks ranks with the Apple Five, it could do itself and its authors a tremendous amount of good, and a return to more traditional competitive behavior could soon follow. In  the long run, or that middle run before we are all dead, we as the increasingly savvy, quality-conscious, price-conscious citizens of Kindle Nation could find ourselves holding more of the cards than we thought we might be holding.

Click Here to View Likely Kindle Owner Buying Behavior at Strategic Price Points

Click here to see complete, detailed results of the survey, and keep your dial tuned to Kindle Nation Dailyhere on the web or here to have posts pushed directly to your Kindle — for ongoing breakdowns of the significance of the survey results.

Additional Survey Results, coming soon:

With Some Worrisome Signs for Traditional Book Publishers, Record Turnout of Kindle Nation Citizens Votes Loud and Clear to Continue the Kindle Revolution

By Stephen Windwalker
Originally posted February 16, 2010 – © Kindle Nation Daily 2010

You can’t fool all of the readers all of the time.

If the Big Six traditional print-book publishers thought they could snooker readers into turning their backs on ebooks and going back to a book business built around exorbitantly priced hardcover bestsellers, here’s a news flash:

The polls have closed, the results have been counted, and a record turnout of Kindle Nation citizens have voted to continue the Kindle Revolution!

Among the key take-aways from the 1,892 individuals who responded February 6-13 to the Winter 2010 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey:

  • Kindle owners are voracious readers who have already made dramatic changes in their book buying behavior. 64% now buy at least 15 Kindle Store ebooks a year (and that does not include free titles), and over half of those respondents buy at least 30 Kindle Store ebooks a year. While 61 percent used to buy 15 or more new print books a year (from Amazon or physical booksellers) before acquiring a Kindle, that number has declined to just 15% today.
  • Kindle owners are poised to make further changes in book-buying and reading behavior, some of which could have grim consequences for traditional print publishers. 73% say that they have “become more price-conscious” as a result of the “recent ebook price wars, 60% say that higher bestseller prices would lead them to “buy more backlist or indie titles,” and 48% say they’ll “look to buy ebooks by authors who provide Kindle exclusives.”
  • That willingness of Kindle owners to look beyond bestsellers for interesting, affordable reading content may signal a declining acceptance of the traditional “gatekeeper” role of the major publishers. The respondents’ ratio of positive-to-negative views of the Big Six publishers was 18% positive to 35% negative, compared to 46% positive to 3% negative for small independent publishers, 86% positive to 1% negative for Amazon itself, and 44% positive to 20% negative for soon to be fledgling ebook seller Apple.
  • Recent controversies over book pricing have apparently helped Kindle owners become more educated and/or opinionated about key players’ roles and tactics. Only 6 of 1,892 respondents said they had “never heard of” the Big Six publishers, 60% agreed strongly or somewhat with the statement that “publishers & Apple should be investigated for price-fixing collusion,” and 93% agreed strongly or somewhat with the statement that “hardcovers are overpriced and ebooks should be much cheaper.” 
  • But the survey indicates that publishers may have been wise to keep their recent pricing-related communications “in-house” and let authors speak directly to readers through online forums and other venues, since a 57% positive to 3% negative ratio in  Kindle owners’ views of bestselling authors suggests far greater credibility, at least for now, than that suggested in the aforementioned 18%-to-35% ratio for the Big Six.

Click here to see complete, detailed results of the survey, and keep your dial tuned to Kindle Nation Dailyhere on the web or here to have posts pushed directly to your Kindle — for ongoing breakdowns of the significance of the survey results.

Additional Survey Results, coming soon: