Does Anyone Know How to Price an e-book?

What are the components of value in an e-book?  How much of the price depends on format, how much on content?

The debate about the best way to price an e-book seems to be endless.  The digital format severs that convenient anchor to a physical product and makes it more difficult for many consumers to determine what’s a fair price.  So far, there doesn’t seem to be a magic one price fits all formula similar to what Apple has used with its $0.99 per tune pricing for music on iTunes.  Publishers are left to experiment to establish the right price points.

Below are some of the factors that seem to regularly appear in commentaries on e-book pricing:

  • Type of book – Non-fiction seems to command different price points than fiction.
  • Goals of the consumer in purchasing it – If the content of the book promises to deliver special value – e.g. increases productivity or convey a new skill – the consumer might be willing to pay more.
  • Quality of presentation – The more professional the design and marketing of the e-book, the better the odds are that a consumer might pay a higher price.
  • Perceived value relative to a print version (if a print version exists) – If the title or author is well known, and the book is available in print at a substantially higher price, a prospective buyer might pay more for the e-book version because the perception of getting good value is heightened.

Judy Cullins presented a variety of different e-book pricing strategies in her article Top 7 Ways to Price your eBook to Sellon Christopher Knight’s Top7Business e-zine.  Like many who have commented on the price of e-books, she recommends pricing based on the value of the content and cautions against underpricing just becasue the format is digital.

Dvid Hennebery, in his article Setting the best price for your ebook for maximum profit, offers some additional strategies for selling more e-books.  These include offer bonus items with the e-book and bundling several e-books together under one price to effectively lower the price of each e-book if sold separately.  He also recommends that publishers or self-publishing authors survey previous buyers of their e-books to determine the price for a forthcoming e-book.

Perhaps in future, part of the e-book pricing equation will be the platform it’s delivered on and the extra capabilities for the reader that inhere in the platform.  Joe Wikert, commenting on a BusinessWeek article by Sarah Lacy, says:  “social network capabilities are something I’ve been pleading for Amazon to consider when developing Kindle version 2.0, 3.0 and beyond.”  An e-book that can take advantage of such features would have more intrinsic value than the same e-book on a reader that was less capable.

While we wait for accepted e-book price points to emerge from the fog, the somewhat chaotic auction between readers and publishers that is today’s pricing mechanism will continue.

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