The $9.99 E-Book Boycott

This piece at GalleyCat about the “informal boycott” going on at Amazon for e-books costing more than $10 is very curious. Readers are tagging $10+ e-books with a 9 99 boycott tag and making rational arguments as to why the price should be under $10:

“Kindle books are kinda like movie tickets. While you can re-read the book, you cannot: donate it to a library, sell it to a used book store, sell it on Amazon’s Used Marketplace, [or] trade it to a friend . . . The publisher does not need to pay for paper, glue, press time, press employees, insurance, ink, boxes, or shipping. Amazon does not need to stock its warehouse, pay staff to fulfill orders, or pay shipping. The price needs to reflect these VERY important facts.”

Of course, a couple months ago Bob Miller of HarperStudio posted an argument about why e-book prices should be almost the same at traditional print book prices:

Whether a book is printed on paper and bound or formatted for download as an e-book, publishers still have all the costs leading up to that stage. We still pay for the author advance, the editing, the copyediting, the proofreading, the cover and interior design, the illustrations, the sales kit, the marketing efforts, the publicity, and the staff that needs to coordinate all of the details that make books possible in these stages. The costs are primarily in these previous stages; the difference between physical and electronic production is minimal. In fact, the paper/printing/binding of most books costs about $2.00…so if we were to follow the actual costs in establishing pricing, a $26.00 “physical” book would translate to a $24.00 e-book…

Related to this, when I was at the Abu Dhabi Book Fair, a representative from Hachette gave a speech about ebooks and expressed a great fear about the “iTunes price setting model,” in which publishers have little to no control over how much their ebooks are sold for.

His argument was that publishers had to be able to set their own price to ensure that they make enough money per unit to stay in business. In my opinion, he seemed to be completely ignoring the market forces on price points, instead sticking with the old, obscure, cost plus value, sort of way of setting book prices.

This isn’t nearly as big as the Tropicana redesign, but it’s in the same vein . . . Granted, it’ll take more than 250 Amazon customers tagging books to effect a change, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the prices of the tagged books. And if $9.99 becomes the accepted standard for e-books, what’ll happen to HarperStudio and their innovative model?

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