Overpriced Ebooks: A Case Study

January 3rd, 2006 · 4 Comments
by Booksquare

Hmm, case study sounds so, well, businessy. Let’s say this is more of a case in point. We will use Jennifer Crusie’s Anyone But You as it is a prime example of Pricing Gone Wild. This title was released in paperback in 1996. The retail price, if we’re squinting at the enlarged cover properly was .50, page count was not much. It was a fun read, though.

We were happy to learn that Harlequin had rereleased this classic title. We were less happy to learn that it was rereleased as a hardcover with a retail price of, gulp, 16.95 (discounted at certain retailers). This was, as you’ll recall from the first paragraph, a really short paperback when initially released. As a hardcover, it comes in at 224 pages. Still we bought the rereleased version due to the fact that garage is overcrowded*, and we’d spend days trying to locate our original copy.

In conjunction with the rerelease, the book is also available electronically. Cool. Probably had we known this, we would have…no, not true at all. We are not going to pay 5.25 (or the discounted over-ten-dollars price) of a rereleased, short book. This is what is known in the publishing industry as “highway robbery.”

Now, careful readers will note that the newly released ebook is priced comparably with the hardcover. This makes no sense at all. It is possible some additional editing happened. Maybe a marketing push will increase costs. We think it’s fairly likely that an electronic version of this title already exists (if not on the author’s hard drive, then someone’s). We note that Harlequin ties its ebook prices to the price of the print copy. Jennifer Greene’s new title, electronic edition, is a mere 4.50 (less with discounts). The paperback version clocks in around 192 pages. Sure, comparing page count is not truly a scientific test. But we recall the Crusie title as really short. Okay, pretty short. It’s been a long time, memory fades.

There is no reason for the Crusie rerelease to cost so much in ebook format. Harlequin’s major costs were either recouped or written off long ago. Current costs are largely related to the hardcover release. The ebook market isn’t booming by any stretch of the imagination, but there are people who purchase electronic books. More likely would take the plunge if the prices were reasonable.

Special thanks to Susan Gable for giving us a chance to extend our ranting and raving into another day.

* – For those who care, the husband did a detailed study of the garage mess problem and discovered the following: We have a small house, so when we clean, stuff is put into the garage. This results in the garage growing increasingly messier. Cleaning out the garage only works if we don’t clean the house. We have entered a vicious cycle in our lives.

Needless to say, we voted to stop cleaning the house.

File Under: The Business of Publishing

4 responses so far ↓

  • Nicole // Jan 4, 2006 at 7:54 am

    I have to say that a savings of a mere .50 isn’t going to induce me to buy the e-version. I’m fine with reading books on my iPaq, but I still prefer reading an actual book and when I can find, say, the Jennifer Greene one even cheaper in paperback from Target or Walmart, why would I buy the ebook version? I love that they’ve started releasing ebooks, but I’d think they’d get a lot more takers if they lowered the prices significantly.

  • SusanGable // Jan 4, 2006 at 8:38 am

    The hardcover’s list price is $16.95, not $6.95.

    I found it discounted at a certain on-line place for $11.53.

    The eBook is on-line (with a “discount”) with a price of $12.53. (or so.) So, that means that I could buy the hardcover for LESS than the eBook – which makes no sense at all.

    Some would argue that I would have to pay shipping on the hardcover. Yes, but not if I buy another book or two from that on-line retailer.

    This is totally crazy! Why in the world should I pay MORE for a product that contains no paper and no ink? (i.e. has a lower cost per unit) As Booksquare said, the costs for this particular book have long ago been recouped. Even if there are new costs associated with the rerelased hardcover (i.e. new cover art) they will recoup that with the price on the hardcover.

    (shaking head) I don’t get it. Who out there is willing to pay more for the eBook than for the hardcover version?

    I’m not.

  • Booksquare // Jan 4, 2006 at 9:19 am

    Thanks for catching my typo — this is a clear lesson about typing and ranting. Kids, do not try this at home.

    Hopefully someone will wise up. No point in destroying an industry before it has a chance to try.

  • Jennifer // Jan 4, 2006 at 2:43 pm

    My theory is that almost all e-books (let’s say, books that are published in e-format and in print) are priced to be a dollar or two (or in the case of new hardbacks, a few dollars) cheaper than the print version. I’ve compared the two plenty of times and that’s usually how it comes out. I figure it’s something akin to the publisher insisting on getting their money’s worth out of higher-priced books, but conceding that in e-books, it’s expected that they’re cheaper to attract buyers. But only a LITTLE cheaper. Entirely ridiculous, yes, but I don’t think we can expect better in the industry.

    And hell, I would have bought Anybody But You in e-book had I known it was out in it, dammit. Oh well, I got mine at Target for $11-something.