Publishing Business Today brings a link to a January Boing Boing story about a study of the e-book price at which people will make the buy decision, and what price level brings the most profit to the publisher. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that there are differences between US and UK book buyers, but that they are so dramatic is striking. Whether most revenue is raised at $0.99 or $9.99, there are some impressively expensive e-books, as this Publishing Perspectives post tells us. Joe Wikert gives us the example of this calculus book, “available as a new product in print from Amazon for $264. The Kindle edition is $230, a whopping savings of just under 13%”. (Though I do see that Amazon is willing to rent it to you for just $80.29!) E-book pricing it could be said has yet to settle down.

The real debate however seems to revolve around that 99¢ e-book price. Indie author David Gaughran has strong views. Whatever he says, the decision on what price to put on a book has to be different for a self-published author and a regular book publisher. Not sure why this should present anyone with a problem, but it does seem to. Maybe indie authors think overhead is immoral.

Dear Author discusses the idea that there’s some connection between price and value. While I agree that with trade books price and value do not march together, I think she overstates the case. I think there are a many books where price can accurately reflect value. A technical manual detailing the chemistry and physics of nuclear plant maintenance would clearly be worth a lot of money to the owner of such a plant. If refusing to buy the $200 book meant that you were less prepared for the meltdown, there are not too many people who would praise your parsimony. Using the same example: if the book was published at $19.95 it wouldn’t sell a single copy more (except perhaps by mistake) than if it were priced at $500. If you’ve got a nuclear plant, you need this; if not, not.

Not sure why Melville House should be weighing in like this on the retail prices of academic books. Sure some academic books have been overpriced, but there are costs involved in creating them which the likes of Melville House has never dreamed of, and the value equation is fundamentally different.

Whatever it is that you’ll pay, Simon Dunlop suggests at Book Business that it’s all going to change anyway. I dare say publishers will eventually manage to get themselves organized so that bits of books can be purchased, but it really is a lot harder than just saying it.

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