Toby has a good take on ebook pricing issues.

Very briefly, mainline publishing houses would prefer to go with a pricing model similar to the model for physical books, where books start at a premium price when they’re new and then are sold at gradually cheaper prices. Amazon, on the other hand, wants to sell a cheap(ish) $10 ebook edition of new hardbacks, because that’s a price point and market segment that drives sales of the kindle, but shows no sign of further lowering the price as cheaper editions of the physical book come out. (One supposes Amazon’s theory is that there are a lot of people will pay $300 for a kindle to read the latest bestsellers for $10, but many fewer who will pay that much to be able to read last year’s bestseller for $4.)

The whole issue (Amazon taking down the Buy button for most books sold by Macmillan imprints, etc.) has produced a lot of talk by non-authors about how publishers are obsolete anyway and authors should just produce and market their own ebooks. But that sort of talk just goes to show that they don’t understand that publishers are specialized venture capital firms (as opposed to specialized manufacturing companies).

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2 thoughts on “Tobias Buckell on ebook pricing issues

  1. Philip: Amazon does lower prices when they come out in paperback, to match paperback prices. So $7.99 or so. My point is that they don’t subsidize the older books, but do the new ones, thus flattening the consumer range of price for eBooks. My books are $7.99-$12.50 under this structure via Amazon.

    In the future, Amazon says it’ll be no higher than $9.99. So then you have a scenario where my publisher would keep the backlist at $7.99 and not drop it to the $5.99 if that is true, and the latest book would be $9.99. There’s a chance publishers may even just bump the backlist up to $9.99, even though that’d be (a bad idea!).

    Under Macmillan, a likely case would be my first two books being $5.99 ($2 cheaper than a paperback) and Sly Mongoose being somewhere between $9.99 and $14.99 (though we don’t know where).

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