[FoRK] Kindle price slashed...

Ken Meltsner meltsner at alum.mit.edu
Wed Oct 7 11:40:12 PDT 2009

I think it's worthwhile to point out that the production of hardcovers
and paperbacks costs about the same -- roughly $1 for a paperback
(last I saw numbers) and $1.50-$2 for hardcovers.  The spread in price
is a good example of people paying more for earlier access to
information, not the production cost differential.  (yes, hardcovers
cost twice as much to make, but wholesale price is likely to be 3-4x
for a hardcover vs. a paperback since I believe discounts are deeper
on paperback editions.)

My personal idea is that locked ebooks (non-transferable) need to be
priced around 50% of the paper book price.  At airports, it's common
to see places that will buy back books that they've sold for 50% of
the retail price.  Since you can't resell or reuse the ebook, the
price should be comparable to that.

I'd also like to see much more use of bundles, "first one is free,"
etc. promotional applications of ebooks.  There's a real problem for
series authors (which is most of the genres these days) in that series
can't pick up new readers easily because the earlier books are out of
print or hard to fnd.  Sometimes, a popular later book in a series can
pull up sales of earlier titles, but this is rare.  Giving away the
first book in a trilogy is a good way to get more readers, and in my
opinion, any revenue from early titles (even at 50% off or as a $1
title) is pretty close to found money.

There you have it: ebooks as a tool -- cheap books to get people
hooked in a fashion that's unlikely to cannibalize other sales and as
a way to differentiate access to timely information/entertainment
(e.g. price can change several times between the publication of the
hardcover and paperback versions of a book.)  I'd also like to see
prices drop, in general, to reflect the lower utility of DRM'd titles,
but I don't see that happening any time soon.

Ken Meltsner

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