The market price for the electronic version of a new hardback seems to be around 60% of the paper version – I say ‘seems to be’, because there’s no hard and fast rule (and, to be perfectly honest, we’re really just sort of following the herd, albeit being a bit cheaper than most other publishers).
After lengthy internal wrangling, we’ve priced the eBook at £7.99 – less than half the price of the hardback*, but still not an insignificant purchase for a lot of people.
We think £7.99 for the eBook is a fair price.
It’s true that we don’t have the same level of production cost as we do with a paper book (though it’s not free!), and that we don’t pay the retailer as much (though we do, in common with other publishers, pay the author more).
But then, collectively we have spent a great deal of time working on the book with Gary, and we’ll need to sell an awful lot of e-copies to show a profit on our time alone.
Never mind us, though: does it represent good value?
Well, perhaps naively, I assume that most† of the value of a book resides in the words (unless you’re talking about Kim Kardashian’s latest).
It terms of sheer quantity, you’re getting a good deal – it’s around 100,000 words long, so even reasonably quick readers will derive several hours of entertainment from it, and way more in £-per-minute than going to the flicks to watch a Hollywood film, say.
(We took the kids to see Jurassic World at the weekend; two adults, two children, one litre of Coke Zero and four smallish tubs of sweets came to £46; we enjoyed it, though we couldn’t help but question the number of velociraptors, and their astonishing ability to survive being crushed against trees by speeding trucks. I think we should have gone to see Minions, where no questions of reality should intrude.)
In terms of quality, only readers can judge that. I will say that you will never have read – and perhaps never will read – a more astonishing memoir by a leading British barrister.
Re the pricing of eBooks, it’s a strange thing. My basic understanding of pricing is that it is a signal, of scarcity. An apple costs (say) 50p because that price contains the cost to produce and make available the apple, plus some profit.
The profit reflects the fact that the buyer knows that apples are not scarce and can be bought elsewhere (or substituted by plums).
This applies to paper books, too; – they are priced at a level which tries to take account of unknown demand and known supply.
With eBooks, there is no supply problem: we can supply a billion. Maybe this is what makes it hard to price them.
*At £16.99, the hardback is also very reasonable: once you tot up the costs of production, sales and distribution and the (at least) fifty per cent of the jacket price which goes to the retailers, and then the author’s royalty, you can see that the return on the fairly substantial amount of cash we’re outlaying and risking is not vast. Unless we sell 500,000 copies, in which case, yes it’s vast[ish].
†Whenever I travel by train I usually do so with my copy of whatever book I’m reading wrapped inside a loose jacket for something by Gogol or Proust. I’ve often wondered whether there’s a market for 50 Shades of Grey-type soft porn disguised as A Tale of Two Cities, or a Jack Reacheresque thriller with a Dostoevsky jacket. Chicks dig Dostoevsky, apparently.