Not All (e)Books Are Created Equal
But let's assume that print pricing does focus on value, and that the prices are profit-optimal. Would you then be able to derive a profit-optimal e-book price from the print price? As with print books, the content and the author are the main value drivers of e-book sales. Yet you can't ignore the value of an e-book's immediate availability, the weightlessness, the ability to bookmark or change font sizes, the search and edit functions, and many other features such as bonus material and interactive animations.
These value factors present a clear picture: No e-book is created equal. You have to differentiate between text e-books (pure content), and enhanced or enriched e-books with added features (with greater value). Digital textbooks, for example, may very well offer the reader more value than the traditional print version. The interactive elements, such as vocabulary trainers, can make digital books much more valuable to readers than print. The discrepancies in value ("x") between print books and e-books can be negative, zero or positive. In other words, the e-book's value may even be higher than the value of the printed book.
Regardless of whether their content is pure or enriched, e-books have yet to achieve mass-market status. E-book readers are so-called "early adopters" whose interest in technical gadgets is as big as their wallet size-they can afford to buy an e-reader or iPad. This group is generally not very price sensitive, and you'd be hard pressed to find many penny-pinching customers who buy e-books today. The "early adopters" also tend to look at the value of an e-book differently than the average buyer: Saving time, greater mobility and higher technological innovation are more important—and thus more valuable—for this group. When setting the price for e-books, publishers are well advised to focus on the willingness of this small target group of customers to pay, and not on what the mass market is willing to spend.