How Much Should an eBook Cost?

This morning’s panel discussion on the importance of ebook pricing was polite but heated as the different panelists disagreed on the inherent built-in factors that affect ebooks and their price points.

To begin with, there was some discussion about how the Department of Justice anti-trust violation investigation into the Big Six publishers can have an impact on the future of publishers setting their ebook prices. No one wants to be seen as setting the prices too high or too low, for fear of not monetizing well but also out of fear of collaboration accusations.

Apart from those concerns, the panelists were divided on the right price point to sell ebooks effectively. On the one hand, there was a lot of discussion that ebooks should not cost as much as print counterparts, that there has to be added value that is reflective of the taking away of some of the minor costs associated with printing and shipping books. However, there was a lot of talk about how pricing ebooks too low can actually have a detrimental effect on book sales. After all, it only cost 99-cents…how good can it be?

Some of the members of the panel, which included Michael Tamblyn of Kobo, Paul Rhodes of Orb Entertainment, Eloy Salsot of HarperCollins, Rachel Wilmer of, and Orna Ross of The Alliance of Independent Authors, took issue with the 99-cent ebook specifically, saying that a free ebook is a giveaway and that an ebook that costs a substantial amount is an investment in the book. Pricing an ebook at 99-cents could be seen as nothing more than an attempt to keep the price low enough that readers will buy it without thinking about it, but that it is still an underhanded way to try to gain rankings on the paid book lists. In effect, the consensus was give it away for free, or price it for a real price.

Ultimately, some of the panelists come to the agreement that about $4.99 is an appropriate price for a debut author or a backlist title, while bestsellers inherently can be priced higher.

However publishers choose to price their ebooks, there are also different acceptable prices for different genres or different types of content, as well as different priority prices for different authors and their work.

Mercy Pilkington (1982 Posts)

is a Senior Editor for Good e-Reader. She is also the CEO and founder of a hybrid publishing and consulting company.

  • Shiner

    Personally, I say no higher than $2 below the mass-market paperback price (so $7.99 for backlist, for the most part). For ebook versions of new hardcovers, 2/3rds the MSRP sounds about right, though certainly no more than 3/4ths.

  • P. Bradley Robb

    Another funny conversation where “price” is tied to “value” as perceived by the seller, rather than the buyer. $5 for backlist items is untenable. And paying anything over $9 or so, when the product is a glorified text document, wrapped in DRM and littered with typos, is a slap in the face of the customer. 

  • Anthony Asbury

    This looks rather different from the UK. Over here, physical books cost up to 50% more and new e-books are generally unnavailable for a year or so because the publishing industry wastes time and money extending these differences to the Internet.

    The industry is in the same position as the music industry was a decade ago. It must admit that the 80s are over and face understand why piracy exists.

  • Good E-Reader

     We have always like .99 pence as a perfect entry level price to discover new authors and lead to purchasing more titles from them, 9.99 for a best seller and a wide of 4-6 on backlist.

  • P. Bradley Robb

    Yup, but again, that’s based on “liking” rather that data-driving pricing models that reflect the value system of the consumer.  The plural of anecdote is not data.

  • Bruno Stella

    I put my self-pub work in at 2.99. I suppose that Good Ereader has a point that if you want somebody to take a chance on your work it should be at the minimum price point, but a twinge of pride bit me. I feel that the book is simply worth much more than that, and if after “looking inside” a reader can’t see that, then we differ on how a good story ought to be written. That’s fair enough. Conversely, if a reader would prefer to save a whopping 2 dollars and read something worse for less, then they don’t value their time much.