• Jonathan Agathokles

    “the death of the e-book.”

    Don’t you mean “The slow, agonising murder by exsanguination [using this word just to be fancy] of the e-book”?

  • Man in the Middle

    The big publishers can ask a million dollars an Ebook, for all I care. I only buy from them when their books go on sale far below $10. The rest of the time, I read Kindle Unlimited books, and Kindle books selling for under $3. They may THINK they beat Amazon by gaining the right to ask the moon for an Ebook, but unless and until they find some fool to pay such lofty undeserved prices, they most assuredly have NOT even slowed Amazon down.

  • Galbraith Deighton

    The Simon and Shuster CEO is a fool if she thinks that the decline in e-reader sales is responsible (in part) for the decline in e-books sales.
    The reason why less e-readers are sold, is that the old ones are still good, and the new releases offer no new features that users want. (i.e larger screens, color screens, higher resolution).

    If sales of e-books are dropping, it is more likely because of pricing, and losing control over your “purchases”, when a company goes belly-up or stops servicing a region/country.
    Customers then get a feeling that they are being used/cheated. They might not complain. But they will be more likely to look for alternative solutions, and not spend their hard earned money on air.
    And once you chase away a customer, it will be difficult to get him back.

  • dave

    Why would anyone want to pay almost as much for an e-book as they do for the bound copy when all they get for their $15 – $18 is a very limited use right? Screw the greedy clowns, I haven’t bought an e-book since the ludicrous price increases, but happily my local library still does so I donate money to them.

  • Howard Lee Harkness

    Hey, Michael, please learn to use the words “fewer” and “less” correctly.

  • mycurlylocks

    The publishers are delusional. Why would anyone pay $17.99 for a normal ebook? Some of the prices have increased %100 or more. My annual pay raise…1.6%. I don’t buy nearly as many ebooks as I used to. I may enjoy them, but I enjoy having the money to eat also.

    I am seeing more authors going independent and I think it’s great. I can still afford their books and not support the publishers’ greed.

  • Well, I kinda think that the novelty of e-books has abated. You have a small demographic that continue to buy them, but most people who bought a bunch either never even read them or just buy print.

  • Pamza

    I never understood why ebooks are costlier than say a paperback, the cost of printing and paper being removed and the thing that we don’t actually own it but just a license to read the eBook.
    It’s actually sad that something as innovative as an eBook is facing problems due to the greediness of the publishers.
    Also, I agree with Galbraith, eReaders decrease in sales is nothing to do with decrease in eBook sales, most of us are first introduced nowadays to ebooks via our smartphones and tablets, which all have an eBook reader, when we buy ebooks there and realise how good an Ereader sounds then only we buy it. Also there is no need to constantly upgrade your Ereader every year or even three years as in my case I still have a KoboGlo but that doesn’t mean I don’t buy ebooks, recently I have found myself buying independent publishers more as I am aghast at the prices of some established publishers ebooks.

  • Martha Smith

    I agree! I am willing to pay more when the book is available only in hardback, but once the paperback has been released, I resent being expected to pay more for an e-book.

  • Martha Smith

    You’re exactly right. I own two nooks, two kindles . . . that’s three more than I need, and all of them work fine. I’d be nuts to buy another e-reader. But I’m still buying plenty of e-books.

  • Logan

    Pretty good article, and hits all the relevant points. I had multiple ebooks on my wishlist and when I saw the prices on them go up by 50%, some of them by 100%, I emailed the publishers telling them why I wasn’t buying.

    It’s interesting to me that publishers think they need to retrain people to adapt to the new prices and are willing to take a hit to do so, rather than think they need to alter their model at all. As long as there is restrictive DRM, you don’t really “own” the book, you can’t lend it (or at the best have extremely restricted lending), and you can’t sell it, then the customers aren’t going to be willing to shell out as much, or sometimes more, for the book.

    It’s silly to think that raising prices won’t result in decreased sales, or that the two are uncorrelated at all. I’ve found myself buying less and less and frequenting Overdrive (through the library) and other sources. There’s plenty of options out there and for a publisher to believe people are compelled to buy their products at any price, is naive. People will seek alternatives, if anything, it is the publishers who are killing the ebook industry (not that I think it is anywhere close to being dead).

  • Albert

    I think the serious decrease in dedicated ereader sales is due to another significant phenomenon: the increase in smartphone screen sizes. Reading an ebook on a 4-inch or 4.5 inch device, though quite doable (I used to read on my 4-inch Dell PDA), is not the most comfortable experience. In the past 2 years the average screensize of smartphones has broken the 5-inch barrier on even lower-end models, making them far more suitable for casual ereading on the go.

    Consider the biggest players in the market:

    Samsung Galaxy S II (2011) – 4.3-inch screen
    Samsung Galaxy S III (2012) – 4.8-inch screen
    Samsung Galaxy S4 (2013) – 5.0-inch screen
    Samsung Galaxy S5 (2014) – 5.1-inch screen
    Samsung Galaxy S6 (2015) – 5.1-inch screen

    Samsung Galaxy Note III to Note 5 – 5.7-inch screen

    LG Optimus G (2012) – 4.7-inch screen
    LG G2 (2013) – 5.2-inch screen
    LG G3 (2014) – 5.5-inch screen
    LG G4 (2015) – 5.5-inch screen

    Apple iPhone 4s (2011) – 3.5-inch screen
    Apple iPhone 5s (2013) – 4.0-inch screen
    Apple iPhone 6 (2014) – 4.7-inch screen
    Apple iPhone 6 Plus (2014) – 5.5-inch screen

    All these brands (except for Apple) sell cheaper versions of those same flagship phones, but instead of being smaller, they sport the same size screens most of the time, and instead sacrifice resolution or CPU power.

    I am willing to bet that the number of people reading on their smartphones (as opposed to other devices) has increased a lot in the last couple of years.

  • I really think your post title is wrong, Michael. It should read, ‘Why are major publishers trying to kill the ebook?’ Pricing ebooks at equal or above paperback, and even hard cover prices on occasions is clearly an attack on ebooks. The Big 5 have never wanted ebooks, so to my mind, they are now taking the opportunity courtesy of their new contracts with Amazon, to prove it.

    However, this is great news for self published authors, as they can now make ebooks their own.

    So, everyone is happy now. The war is over?

  • Howard B Edgar

    Of course sales will drop as prices rise. I agree with Mr Haines below. Publishers want to put ebooks out of business so they can continue killing trees for paperbacks and hardcovers. Utterly ridiculous. I switched to an e-reader because it’s easier on the eyes and I don’t need physical storage space for my books anymore. If I can change my habits at 65, others can, too. Try it. You might like it.

  • Well, here is a trend that I noticed.

    Major publishers are charging more money for e-books. They do it because they are expanding their business more into the digital realm. Many of them have digital first imprints now, that sign up indie authors and distribute their books. The authors who sell a lot of copies end up getting a physical book deal.

    Most of the majors smaller imprints do their own editing, book cover design and a small team that advises, represents and eventually coordinating book tours. All of these people are either new hires or brought from various departments of the parent company. So, this is hefty overhead.

    Publishers are also spending more money in bidding wars. Some new author just got a one million dollar deal for her debut title. All those YouTube stars getting big book deals too.

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