Publishers Want to Charge More for E-books ... But Will Consumers Pay It?
I just returned from an incredible vacation to Colorado. It was the first time I traveled with my Nook, which, of course, is one of the great benefits of an e-reader—it’s portability. I tend to be a, shall we say, slightly heavy packer (OK, I’ll admit it, my suitcase was just shy of 50 lbs., but I still contend that every one of those pairs of shoes was essential), so it was a relief not to have to lug one or two cumbersome print books along, too. And from my admittedly limited, unscientific perspective (that is, seat 18D on the plane ride out to Denver), it appears e-reader use is indeed increasingly—in addition to my Nook, I spotted two Kindles in my direct vicinity.
Even if e-readers are becoming more commonplace, I still notice that anytime an e-reader is spotted out in the wild, so to speak, it always attracts a lot of attention. People are curious: "What is it? What does it do? Do you like it? How much does it cost? How much do the books cost?"
This last question sparked a lengthy conversation amongst me and a few of my fellow airplane mates, including a debate over just how much e-books should cost. As with similar conversations I’ve had in the past, I found that many consumers believe that if you strip away the physical book, you strip away most of the cost. One person I was speaking with even said that she thought publishers were taking advantage of consumers by charging $9.99 for essentially a Word file. Those of us with greater knowledge of the book business, and the actual costs involved in producing e-books, certainly can educate such individuals, but we can’t change the general perceptions of consumers-at-large. The majority don’t know the intricacies of the business. Nor do they want to.
In a discussion about real estate, a friend once said to me, "A house is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it." And I believe that’s true, to some extent, in regard to e-books. I don’t advocate that publishers lose money on e-books, nor do I support decreasing the value of the hard work we all do to produce a book, no matter what the format, but the old "the customer is always right" adage is the foundation of any good business. And right now, many customers believe that digital equates to minimal cost. I’m afraid we may have missed the window to change the now "Amazon standard" of $9.99 or less e-book pricing.