Should E-Books Be Cheaper Than Printed Books? | Gary Smith's Blog

Programmer & tech geek

Should E-Books Be Cheaper Than Printed Books?

I had an interesting email yesterday from Amazon’s KDP support team (KDP is Amazon’s self publishing program). I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years working on programs that teach people how to self publish through services such as Amazon KDP, so I have an interest in what’s going on in the self publishing world.

Basically, Amazon is in a battle with a global publisher named Hachette. Amazon says Hachette is committed to keeping e-book prices far higher than they should be. Hachette accuses Amazon of causing delivery delays and flagging certain books as ‘out of stock’ when they aren’t.

You can read the entire message here:

The bottom line (and this is my personal opinion) is that publishers don’t want e-books to be cheap because it cuts deeply into their profits. You only have to browse through the Amazon Kindle bookstore and you can see that most self published books are under $10, whilst books that have been uploaded by a publisher have very similar pricing for paperback, hardcover and Kindle (ebook) versions. In some cases the Kindle version is priced higher than the paperback or hardcover. But as Amazon says, e-books should be cheaper because, and I quote:

“With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books.”

From a publisher’s point of view, they give the author a commission of around 10-15% (unless you are a Stephen King or a JK Rowling in which case you would have leverage to take a larger slice) and they often have authors sign over exclusive rights to all physical and digital editions of their book(s). With Amazon KDP there is no publisher – the author can upload their own book and keep up to 70% of the income from the book. They can also use services such as CreateSpace and Ingram Spark to have printed books published on demand. Again… no publisher required.

On the downside we’ve seen a lot of bookstores close due to the drop in demand for printed books. It’s not an isolated situation though. There are far fewer ‘video hire’ stores around these days due to the availability of movies through online and cable services. Australia Post recently said that they want to stop delivering mail daily because of the large drop in mail volume with most people using email these days.

That’s the cost of change and I think book publishing companies are more concerned about their bottom line than their authors…

One Comment

  • Informative! I’d never given it much thought, but yes it makes sense. If there were a book equivalent (or close) to, say, BandCamp or CDBaby, where authors get far greater percentages of their profits, then why shouldn’t we support this? 🙂

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