Ebook Pricing Really IS Getting Out of Control

by PocketGoddess on June 2, 2010

I was perusing my news feeds this morning when I came across this little gem on TeleRead; apparently The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is now $27.99 in the Kindle store, which is a giant increase over the paperback price. No text-to-speech either, even though the ebook costs more than the abridged audiobook.

I just can’t believe how far backwards we’ve gone in the last few months; when ebooks were a niche market they seemed to be much more reasonably priced (even if you did have to wait for the paperback to come out for lower prices) and more available (you had to choose a platform, but that was better than authors signing exclusive deals with Amazon that exclude folks who want to read on their nook or other non-Amazon devices).

Now, we have:

  • Crazy prices (which is anything higher than paperback price, if the book is already available in that format);
  • Long delays (supposedly to prop up hardcover sales, but many folks will likely move on to something else, or download a pirated copy of the book, and did I mention that I’m still waiting for the ebook version of The Gathering Storm, which was published last October(!) and is not currently available in ebook form at any price);
  • The end of the Fictionwise Buywise club; and other issues.

So I find myself more often re-reading my old ebooks by my favorite authors, or even worse, picking up the PS3 controller or the TV remote instead. . . .

Thank goodness for the fine folks at Baen, where I can get reasonably priced ebooks in a variety of formats, from epub to Kindle, Microsoft Reader and even plain HTML I can read in any browser. No DRM, and I don’t have to lock myself into one particular format at purchase–which is what keeps me from “investing” more heavily in ebooks from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. That’s cold comfort for those who don’t like science fiction and fantasy, but perhaps all of this “agency madness” will go away at some point in the future and we can get back to a more reasonable way of handling ebooks. I’m not holding my breath, but I don’t think I’m alone in suspecting that ebook consumers are going to vote with their wallets.

We’re still readers, after all, and it shouldn’t matter how we want to consume the content. So why are we being punished for preferring digital content? It shouldn’t matter whether:

  • we want to have a clean and uncluttered home (I love books, but they’re still clutter when they start to overwhelm the available space);
  • desire instant fulfillment and don’t want to visit the book store or wait for an internet order to arrive;
  • need the ability (due to visual impairment) to enlarge the font or listen to a book with speech-to-text;
  • or just find giant hardcovers just too heavy to carry around or read for an extended period of time.

Considering that ebooks can’t be re-sold, and only Barnes & Noble allows a very limited form of lending to others, they’re actually good for publishers because there’s no used book market for ebooks. I believe that electronic books are the wave of the future, especially in terms of mass consumption (fiction, “beach” reads, and pleasure reading of all kinds). I still read and enjoy printed books, and think that they will be around for a good long while, especially in the academic, gift, and children’s markets. But as more and more folks jump onto the electronic reading bandwagon, whether they’re reading on their computer, a smartphone, an iPhone/iPad or a dedicated device, they’re looking for reasonably priced, abundant content that is easy to buy and easy to use. Hopefully the publishers will start to see that sometime soon, and act accordingly.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: