Ebooks are revolutionising the book world in big, bold strokes

Ebooks, ipads, apps, kindle, digital content – there is no hiding from the digital revolution. If you work in publishing this was the year that digital made its breakthrough. Just ask the over 400 people that attended The Bookseller’s annual FutureBook conference. With that in mind I am really excited that author Robin Spano has written a guest post trying to show her (very cool) publisher that price does matter when it comes to ebooks (they think the ebook price should be $10.99 and Robin thinks it should be $4.99 or less). Read on and get involved!

Ebooks are revolutionising the book world. They’re changing things in big, bold strokes, and I’m excited to see what’s coming.

As a new author, I love the electronic revolution. Before ebooks, before Amazon, writers used to have to rely on a bookstore deciding our stock was worth the gamble. They’d buy two copies, sell out, and it could be a month or longer – if they decided to reorder – while the sluggish distribution system replenished their stock. Bestsellers – like Dan Brown or Sophie Kinsella – would be available everywhere. But new and lesser known writers would have to hunt down their stock to let their friends know where to find it.

Now, the playing field is much more level. You might not be able to buy Dead Politician Society at every bookstore on the planet, like you could for Dan Brown’s latest novel. But you can buy it at every online retailer. Which means that in the land of ebooks, Dan Brown’s books and mine are equally accessible.

I also love ebooks because they’re hitting a younger, more tech-savvy crowd. In Japan, 75% of middle school girls read all their novels on their smart phone (!). This book is not for kids, but the audience who’s relating best to Dead Politician Society is between 20–40 years old – exactly the age group most into cool new gadgets like e-readers and iPads.

But even though ebooks are crashing into the market at breakneck speed – they’ve more than tripled their market share since this time last year – no one can agree on how to price them.

My publisher set the price of Dead Politician Society at $10.99. That’s fairly standard – most new releases are selling for around the same. But to me that seems high. An ebook is not tangible, it can’t be loaned out easily, and it can’t be autographed. With the paperback available for $10.79 online, I would price the ebook – purely based on intuition – at $4.99.

ECW Press likes the price where it is. They don’t think people shop for books based on price, but on content. They also don’t want to devalue a book by saying it’s worth less than another book in its genre. They say people buy the reading experience, not the product. If someone will pay $10 or more to see a movie, ECW figures they’ll pay that to read a book that looks interesting, and they’ll choose the format – print or electronic – that suits their lifestyle.

I like all their arguments, and I still disagree. So, my very awesome publisher is holding a challenge. Actually, they’re trying to prove me wrong.

For one week, Tuesday, 7 December – Monday, 13 December, Dead Politician Society will be available for $1.99 on iBooks, Kobo, and Kindle.

What this will show

If Dead Politician Society sales jump dramatically: it will show that price does matter. It may or may not convince ECW to lower the ebook price permanently, but their minds are open – they’re interested in what the public has to say.

If sales don’t increase, I’ll concede their point: Price is not a primary factor in ebook sales.

How to participate

If you agree with ECW that price is not an issue, do nothing. (Or better yet – buy the book at full price when the promotion is over.)

If price is important to you, there are 2 ways you can help:

  1. Buy the Dead Politician Society ebook from Kobo, Kindle, or iBooks during the $1.99 period.
  2. Share a link to this challenge on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or anywhere you think mystery-lovers will see it.

I’ll be keeping results updated at Facebook and Goodreads – come by and say hello!

About the Book

Dead Politician Society is lighthearted crime fiction – think Charlie’s Angels meets Janet Evanovich. A young female cop poses as a university student to penetrate a secret society who’s been claiming credit for the deaths of local politicians. There’s some sex and swearing – so maybe don’t buy it for your grandma unless she enjoys that. But most readers so far seem to find this a good, fun read.

Robin Spano

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About hombremediocre

Publisher, bibliophile, writer, traveller and general culture aficionado. (My favourite punctuation mark is the em dash.)
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8 Responses to Ebooks are revolutionising the book world in big, bold strokes

  1. Bonsai says:

    I don’t quite understand, is the object simply to prove you sell a higher number of copies? Then I would thought you are sure to be proven right.

    However You would have to create at least 5 times the sales to reach the same turnover. Additionally the distribution costs may increase as you will need 5 times the server capacity and bandwidth.

    So unless that is taken into consideration you won’t have achieved much, and if you really wanted to make a point why not give your book away and don’t involve a publisher at all?

  2. Robin Spano says:

    Bonsai, you make a good point. This is definitely an inexact science – we’re looking for dramatic short term results (like 10 or 2o times the normal ebook sales) – to see if it’s worth rethinking the price to something lower. My position is that if the price was $4.99, we’d sell significantly more than double what it will sell at $10.99.

    We thought of a giveaway, but realized we’d learn nothing – it would turn the book into a flyer someone hands you – a lot of people would probably delete it. So at $2, it means that the book has to look interesting to a buyer, 0r they wouldn’t pick it up. But the price is low enough that if it does look interesting, it won’t deter sales. Of course we won’t learn exactly how to price the book – just if price is a factor, which I think it is, in a bigger way with ebooks than with print books.

    Thanks for weighing in. And you’re right – sales have to jump more than proportionally to the price decrease, or we won’t be learning anything!

  3. I tweeted and did the face book thing too. I will also blog about this. Send me the details via the BBC Cafe for next week.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  4. My publisher set my book at $4.95 for the eBook version, which I thought was fair.
    And I love new tech gadgets, but I am definitely out of the age range!

  5. Unfortunately your book is not available everywhere. It’s not available in the UK iBooks store, so I can’t buy it at any price.

    I agree with your points. Also as a consumer, I wont pay anywhere near the print price for an ebook, simply because I know that the publisher is not paying for warehousing, printing, potentially pulping unsold copies, shipping and packing, and all the other costs associated with print that simply don’t exist in digital distribution. Why does this matter to me? Because I know I am being overcharged. I know that the costs to the publisher have been decimated, but the cost to me stays the same. However much I value the reading experience, it’s diminished knowing I’ve been overcharged. Publishers can keep their margins and significantly lower costs, but they have chosen not to.
    Not to mention that they have eliminated the second hand market, so I can’t sell it, donate it, lend it, or buy a copy at a second hand bookshop. I have also noticed that over time, physical copies go on sale, get discounted and I often buy books on multibuy offers. eBooks never get this treatment, most of the time I find the print copy is 1/2 to 1/4 the price of the ebook copy.

    • (I just checked, it’s also not available on the UK Kindle store.)

      • Robin Spano says:

        Thanks Dave! I’m sorry you weren’t able to buy the book, but I appreciate the message of support. (I’m gathering comments at the end of this week, as well as numeric results.) I didn’t know before this experiment how territorial ebook rights were (I thought, one big Internet – anyone could access it.) I guess it shows how terrified the publishing industry is of these things – the overpricing screams of fear to me, too – as long as ebooks stay so expensive, I probably won’t buy an e-reader. But if the books were half price, I probably would.

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