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How much would you pay for an ebook?

Things to know before you read this:

  • I’m a huge reader, and always write as a reader first.
  • I’m a publisher with a unique philosophy about what a publisher’s role should be. I make money from it.
  • I buy a lot of ebooks — both fiction and nonfiction.

So, I’m going to be honest.

I’m a huge fan of ebooks, but I don’t own a Kindle or Nook or whatever, and do not plan to own one in the near future. I want my ebooks to act like MP3s — files on the hard drive. Easy to use, just load ’em up. Not a file that can vanish from my device depending on where in the world I am. And not something I have to unlock, transform, or hack before I can consume my legally-acquired copy.

For these reasons, I only buy and read non-DRM’ed PDFs, HTML, and plain text. All those other formats? For a fiction book, forget it. I don’t want any fiction book so badly that I’m willing to put up with this junk to read it. Plenty of other fish in the sea.

Now, let’s talk about price.

I understand that book publishing is a hard business, especially the fiction publishing. I totally understand the need to make money. But speaking as a consumer of ebooks, as a reader, I do not want to pay more than $5 or $6 for a fiction book.

No matter how good it is, no matter who wrote it or how profound the message, no matter the rereadability. I used to buy a lot of new paperbacks for $5 – $8, and I don’t want to spend any more than that for what I see as the next generation of paperbacks. In fact, I think ebooks should be a bit less than the hard copy. Not a lot, but a dollar or two.

Is this irrational, considering I know from experience the costs of producing and marketing a book, regardless of the format? Perhaps. But as a business owner, I know to serve my customers first, because without my customers, I would not have a business. That means listening to them, and above all, trying not to piss them off.

As a reader, what is your idea of a fair price for a fiction ebook?
Think of what you want, strictly as a consumer and book buyer. Cut out the justification; pretend you don’t know anything about what it takes to produce a book, and you don’t care.

What do you want to pay? Do you think $14.99 is too high? Are you OK with Kindle’s $9.99 or less? I’d really like to find out what you think as a buyer first, no matter if you’re also on the production end.

2 thoughts on “How much would you pay for an ebook?

  1. For me, as a reader, I look at utility.

    I can lend a paper book to a friend. I can sell it to a used bookstore. I can pass it around my family so we can all read it.

    I can’t (legally) do that with an ebook that has DRM on it.

    So for me, a DRM’ed ebook has lower utility, and therefore lower value than a paperback. As such, I wouldn’t pay more than half a paperback–so, let’s call it $3.

    Needless to say I don’t buy DRM’ed ebooks.

    For ebooks without DRM, I figure I can pass them around the family, and I can probably get away with handing it off to a friend (yeah, I know, legality is weak there) but I can’t sell it to a used bookstore, so it’s a little less usable. In that case, the value is probably more like $5-10.

  2. Good points — I didn’t even think of the lendability, since my friends&fam have TOTALLY different reading tastes. Thanks for your insight.

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