It’s never made a lot of sense that ebooks – which require no materials, no shipping, no storage, no stocking or maintenance manpower, and no destruction of unsold inventory – often cost as much or more than their print equivalents. eBook aficionados have spent the last 10 years shaking their heads and wondering when the publishing companies would get a clue… when the aficionados weren’t simply scanning in the books themselves and sharing them for free, of course.
OK, not all the publishing companies. Baen Books, as always, was ahead of the curve with a sensible and attractive pricing plan from the very beginning. But I almost have to throw them out when complaining about publishers; they keep throwing off the curve. Meanwhile the rest of the publishers priced their ebooks high and huddled together, hoping that it wouldn’t catch on.
Then Amazon shook things up with the $9.95 New York Times Bestseller ebook pricing. Suddenly that seemed to be a better deal – it certainly helped drive sales of their otherwise overpriced Kindle – and we saw a chink in the pricing wall.
Now it’s spreading, and I hope it continues. eReader.com, one of the oldest ebook retailers, has changed their pricing structure and they’re going Amazon one better. Now all new books start at $9.95 or less the first week of their release. After that the books revert to the publisher’s list price but will not exceed $12.95. Read that again: will not exceed $12.95. And you can still earn 15% Reader Rewards, rebates which can be applied to future purchases.
This is, frankly, huge. Even Amazon’s Kindle store has plenty of books over 20 bucks. But now eReader (recently purchased by Barnes and Noble) has committed to selling every book, no matter the cover price, for under 13 bucks. And New York Times Bestsellers will continue to be $9.95. I’m guessing it’s B&N’s way of making sure Amazon doesn’t become THE ebook retailer, but whatever their reasons are it’s much closer to what I’d consider reasonable and I immediately celebrated by buying a book I hadn’t planned to pick up until its paperback release (WWW: Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer,$12.95, down from publisher price of $24.95).
Now, the caveats. I don’t know if every book you want is available through eReader.com. I’m not sure why similar pricing hasn’t been applied over at Fictionwise.com (now also owned by B&N) where WWW:Wake is still full price (minus various rebates). And since being taken over by B&N both companies have started enforcing geographic restrictions on applicable books so that if you’re outside the U.S. or Canada, you can’t buy many ebooks that you could have bought a few weeks ago. Which, again, is pretty silly. Amazon will ship the physical book to different countries, what makes the ebook different? Publishing companies need to re-evaluate the licensing contracts they’ve been using since Gutenberg and look at making them more global. But that’s another battle.
Updated: looks like pricing on older books is still a bit high compared to Kindle or paperback editions, so this will really show up on new haerdback editions.