«
»

Books

Book Price Disparities

12.18.09 | Comment?

Old school book publishers have a love-hate relationship with ebooks. On one hand, it costs less to produce an e-book than it does a paper book (although not THAT much less). On the other hand, even with ebook sales experiencing impressive double-digit growth this year, profits from those sales account for a small percentage of overall publisher profit. While some bookstores are trying to figure out how to get into the ebook distribution chain, others are still floundering. Publishers can not afford to price e-books in a way that undercuts bookstore sales and thus upsetting their life-line to the buying public. That is why we see such a disparity in the pricing of both e-books and p-books. For instance, the other day I got a “daily deal” e-mail from Buy.com that included the following book. (Advance appologies to Facebook readers, who probably won’t see the screenshots. Please visit flametoad.com to see this post in all its illustrated glory. Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.

Screenshot of Angel Time at Buy.com.

Screenshot of Angel Time at Buy.com.

The book is Angel Time, a new release by author Anne Rice. I was a fan of Lestat back in the day, but I couldn’t get into Tales of the Body Thief and haven’t picked up a book of hers since. However, I’ve been curious to give her another try ever since I read that the rediscovered her faith. Angel Time is an attempt to apply her talent to her faith in the creation of a story that is both thought-provoking and entertaining. We’ll see.
Being a new release by a well-known author, Angel Time was published as a hardback. However, you’ll note that in this screenshot that it is heavily discounted. At the time I grabbed this image, I could get the hardback for $12.99 and free shipping.

Screenshot of Angel Time at Fictionwise.

Screenshot of Angel Time at Fictionwise.

Now let’s compare that with the ebook at FictionWise. When I first got my Sony ebook reader, Fictionwise was my store of choice. The Sony store sold books in their own proprietary format, and I only wanted to buy books that could stay with me as I upgraded hardware. However, it didn’t take too long to realize that most of the popular books by bigger publishers weren’t available in Fictionwise’s multiformat file. The most popular books were locked behind DRM in their ereader format. This book is no exception, and it’s $7 more expensive than the hardback. (Or “only” $4 more if you join the club, which I had done.)

Screen shot of Angel Time at Books on Board.

Screen shot of Angel Time at Books on Board.

After becoming disillusioned with Fictionwise, I switched to Books On Board. BoB sells books in the “universal” epub format, although they use a layer of Adobe DRM on top. Far from ideal, but I figure one problem at a time. At least they have it for $15, “only” $2 more than the hardback. BoB is nice about disclosing just what you’re getting, and in this case we see that the publisher has thoughtfully disabled copying, printing, and lending features. At this point, I’m left with weighing the extra expense and loss of features/benefits in using an ebook against the domestic tranquility of not invoking Mrs. Flametoad’s ire by further contributing to the teetering stacks of books already lining our study.

Screen shot of Angel Time at Amazon.

Screen shot of Angel Time at Amazon.

Amazon, at least on same level, gets it. The hardback is $15.17 and the Kindle edition is $9.99. Amazon has come under a lot of fire from publishers and competitors about their selling ebooks so low. However, until their utility improves and one is able to do more of the things one can do with a paper book (such as lend it to a friend), as far as I’m concerned ebooks should never be priced more 80% of the price of the most inexpensive paper version. Nothing ticks me off like seeing a DRM-crippled ebook selling for more than the cost of the same book’s paperback edition.

I think the moral of the story is that Buy.com had a really good deal on the hardback. They might even have been treating it as a loss leader. However, when I read about publishers lamenting the dangers of ebooks undercutting hardback sales, I look at this kind of thing and have to wonder.

Update: Speaking of publishers lamenting ebooks, Teleread documents a move by publishers to delay the release of ebooks to keep them from undercutting hardback sales. Undercutting.

RSS feed

Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


«
»

Bad Behavior has blocked 271 access attempts in the last 7 days.