Editor's Note: The Importance of Idea Sharing in Times of Change
The Book Business editorial staff recently completed one of my favorite exercises: reviewing the responses to our reader survey that we e-mail annually to our subscribers. I always gain so much insight from reading not only your thoughts on the magazine (both praise and critiques), but also where you currently stand with your business and compared to others in the industry—what your biggest challenges are, your greatest growth areas, what you're eager to learn more about, etc. Your input is invaluable as we move forward to better serve you with a variety of print and digital products, as well as events, and I thank all of you who took what I know is precious time out of your workday to contribute.
One thing that I try to strive for with our editorial coverage is balance—making sure that we are providing our readers with information on as many different topics as are relevant to you and your business. That can be quite a challenge in this new digital publishing world, as industry news and discussions are dominated by rapidly progressing technologies, and the issues and challenges that stem from them. "Are they sick of hearing about e-books?" I sometimes wonder. And while I'm sure some of you are, I was surprised by just how often e-books and related topics were mentioned in our reader surveys—it was overwhelming. You want to know more about everything from e-book formatting and production to pricing, distribution, marketing and more.
In this issue, our annual business tips issue, we are already answering your call for e-book-related information with tips for increasing e-book sales as well as tools for digital success that won't break the bank. We also address another topic that was mentioned frequently on the Book Business reader survey, and one that I'm confident will be mentioned even more frequently next year—mobile publishing. And of course, we also plan to address other aspects of e-books and mobile in 2011, along with a host of other topics.
One e-book issue that I'm anxious—both from a business and a consumer perspective—to address in a future issue is the often-debated issue of pricing. No matter how many arguments I've heard, and agreed with, on the importance of increasing e-book pricing and not undervaluing content, I'm afraid as a consumer that I've fallen victim to the "$9.99 and under" mentality. I associate e-books with that particular price tag, and I tend to cringe a little when I see e-books priced higher than that.
When I became an e-reader owner about a year ago, I was committed to building my e-book collection—after all, isn't that the whole point of owning one? I do not own an Amazon Kindle (which set the "$9.99 and under" bar) and now frequently find that the books I would like to purchase from my e-reader's e-book store are priced several dollars higher than $9.99.
Recently, I was reminded of a book that was released a few years back that I've always wanted to read. It is priced at more than $16(!) in my e-book store. Researching my options, I discovered that I can buy a new print copy from a third party on Amazon.com for a little over $5 (which includes shipping). I'm torn: Do I utilize this not-inexpensive device that I've grown to love reading on? Or do I save 11 bucks (nothing to sneeze at when, like so many others, I'm trying to keep expenses down) by purchasing a bargain-basement print copy?
More importantly, I did my price-comparison shopping a week ago and still haven't purchased the book in any format because, at the time when I was ready to click "buy," I couldn't decide between the two formats, and moved on to something else. I know from speaking to other e-reader owners that I'm not the only one who is a bit baffled by e-book pricing, and I would hate to see this pricing conundrum cost a publisher a book sale, and a reader the experience of reading a new book. Moreover, will some consumers shy away from e-readers and e-books if they feel the prices of e-books are generally too high?
This doesn't seem to be quite as much of an issue for me with newer releases, as I've done quite a bit of comparison shopping with those as well. (Did I mention that I love a good bargain?) For example, I recently purchased the e-book of a new release, which cost $12.99. I seem to be willing to go a little bit over $9.99 for a new title, if (and I stress "if") it's one that I've been anxiously awaiting its release. And a cheap print alternative isn't generally an option in this case; print copies of this title, even from third parties on Amazon, cost several dollars more than what I paid for the e-book version.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and business strategies on this pricing issue, as well as anything else that may be on your minds. While we only officially survey our readers once a year, I encourage you to offer your opinions and experiences year-round via e-mail, Twitter and/or comments on BookBusinessMag.com.