Here’s a write up from Book Business Magazine today of a survey showing that people are not buying e-books because they are cheap.  And below is today’s post from FutureBook the blog of The Bookseller in UK saying exactly the opposite. Me, I buy e-books because I can’t fit any more p-books into the apartment. There is no doubt that discounting the price of a Kindle edition for one day can lead to a big spike in sales. Amazon emails thousands of people notifying them of the discount opportunity — many react positively.

E-book pricing analyst Rachel Willmer asks the question on her blog: is it possible to get an e-book with a sensible price into the Kindle Top 10, or do they need to be price slashed? Wilmer, who is on a pricing panel at next week’s FutureBook Conference, has analysed e-book prices in relation to their Kindle ranking over the past week, and reveals that all of the top 10 titles have been offered with a price below £1 over the last week. Outside of those 10, prices are more variable, there are 11 titles priced above £1 in the top 30, though only one above £5, the new Ian Rankin book Standing in Another Man’s Grave agency-priced at £9.99–one pound above Amazon’s price for the hardback. Still, the data appears to be clear: cheap prices push Kindle sales.
The blog has generated some interesting reactions from Twitter, with some supporting the view that only cheap books sell digitally, and that those publishers that don’t realise this, need to. As Peter Brantley tweets “better marketing will elevate some book sales volume, but readers are very price sensitive due to abundance”, or in the words of Jill Mansell
“People would rather eread something they don’t love because it’s dirt cheap, than a book they DO love which costs a few pounds”.
But we need to be careful about rushing to judgements with the data available so superficial. First, Willmer’s chart is based only on the Kindle chart, and though Amazon obviously dominates this sector, it IS not the only player in town, and as more e-booksellers join the fray price may become less significant, particularly if different e-booksellers attract different types of customer. Kobo has already stated that its ‘sweet-spot’ is between £4 – £4.99–and in its top 10 today six titles are priced above £1. The Nook UK charts look even healthier: I could not find one title in its bestseller lists this morning, priced less than £3.99. Second, at TOC Frankfurt Nielsen told us that $9.99 was the most popular price point in the US, compared to the UK where e-book buying was coalescing around 99p. The point being that as an e-book market matures, customers become less price-sensitive. Third, it seems to me inadvisable to look at e-book prices in isolation. It may look odd to consumers that an e-book is priced more highly than a hardback, but it might look even odder were booksellers left trying to shift hardbacks for £10, with competing e-book versions of the same book priced at £1.