With ebook best seller lists dominated by books costing less than £1, surely it’s about time publishers realised that artificially high prices aren’t the answer?
The American self-publishing author John Locke sells his ebook novels for 99 cents on Amazon.com. Since January he’s sold 350,000 books, pocketing 35 cents per book sold. That’s $122,500 dollars of income in less than three months.
When another self-publisher, Joe Konrath, reduced the price of his book from $2.99 to $0.99 his sales went from 40 books per day to 620, increasing his revenue by five times in the process.
It’s a similar story in the UK – as I write this, six of the top 10 Kindle books are priced at £1 or less. It’s not just self-publishers; some big-name publishers have caught the bug too. What better way to get people hooked on a new series than selling at a knock-down price?
Levelling the playing field
Pricing books this way makes them a commodity. £1 is a trifling amount, so little it’s easy to take a punt on a book that sounds good and has okay reviews. The more the book sells, and the more positive reader reviews, the more powerful the argument becomes.
For an aspiring writer it’s gold dust. There’s no need to pester publishers for paltry rewards – just go straight to the customer. Customers, meanwhile, risk little in their purchases, especially as there’s no cast-iron guarantee you’ll enjoy an ebook priced £7.99 as opposed to £1.
High prices are self-defeating
While 99p ebooks are great news for self-publishers, it doesn’t say much for the future of quality literature.
If you can write three, four or more books a year, such tactics are easy to understand. But writing a biography requires endless interviews and research, and not all novels are produced in a fury of writing – some require extensive research to get the details right. The longer a book takes to write, the less this commodity pricing is feasible.
Still, the success of 99p ebooks proves publishers’ ebook price fixing doesn’t work. Readers know that £7.99 for an ebook is just plain greed, whereas £1 or less is too tempting to ignore. By setting their prices so high, publishers make a future of 99p ebooks more likely, not less.
Do you think ebooks as cheap as 99p are a good idea, or will it damage the quality of the books we read?