Monday, May 18, 2009
How much is a good read worth these days?
by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
An article in yesterday's New York Time's entitled "Steal this book (for $9.99)" caught my eye, especially the first line: "Just how much is a good read worth?" and the story of how readers were boycotting the Kindle version David Baldacci's latest thriller "First Family' for being priced around $15 (some $5 more than the majority of Kindle e-books were selling for). The article went on to discuss fears in the publishing industry that e-books cannibalize higher-price print sales (rather like the flood of cheap houses onto a real estate market) and that Amazon's low price point sets a precedent in the e-book market that may be unsustainable. Offsetting this is the evidence, however, that e-book purchasers are buying more books now than they ever did as print book buyers. This is because of the ease with which they can download the books and (presumably) by the lower price point.
This all got me thinking - what is a 'good read' worth these days? Should a bestselling author be able to command a premium e-book price? (though I'm guessing Baldacci's publisher may be regretting that decision!) Does Amazon's "loss leader' mentality in which it basically subsidizes the $9.99 Kindle book create the perception that e-books are only worth $10 or less? And what does that mean to consumer perceptions of the cost of trade paperbacks or hardbacks?
I remember talking to an English publisher last year who said the market in the UK had become horrendous because the majority of books were being sold in supermarkets very cheaply or at chain stores as part of "Buy three get one free" and "Buy two for the price of one" kind of deals. Her argument was that in the UK at least this marketing tactic had made many consumers question the original price of books (their reasoning being, well, if I get two for the price of one shouldn't they have been originally half the list price anyway?). It also created the perception that books were over priced (God forbid!). I wonder, in the e-book market, will Amazon's pricing have a similar effect?
So what are you willing to pay for a good read these days? Would you pay more than $9.99 for an author you loved on Kindle? Does the cost of an e-book make you less inclined to plunk down more money for the paper version? As e-books command more and more of the market what effect will their price have on us readers and (poor sods that we are) writers? Is it a slippery slope or just a storm in a teacup???