Paperback or e-book: which costs more?
I recently wrote about how the AAP (Association of American Publishers) was reporting lower e-book sales, and how I thought that didn’t indicate that people were reading fewer e-books overall:
One of my readers, Wildsubnet, commented that tradpubs (traditional publishers) charging more for Kindle books than for paperbacks might be having an impact.
That’s an analysis I haven’t done in a while, so I thought it was worth a look.🙂
What I did was look at the bestselling paperbacks at Amazon.com, although that really sorts now by “Featured” (that’s likely to get more tradpubs)
Before I do, though, let me address the situation a bit more.
From very early on, people would bring up (in the Amazon Kindle forums, for example), this idea that e-books should cost less than p-books (paperbooks). They often based it on the idea that it didn’t cost a publisher anything to put out an e-book, and that the natural materials cost was less.
The first one was based on a couple of ideas that didn’t tend to be true. One was that the publisher already had the e-book rights if they had the p-book rights, which was very often not the case. Another was that all it took was scanning the book if they didn’t already have a digital copy…in reality, the formatting is considerable. It also leaves out royalties for the author for the e-book.
The second one assumes that the list price of a book is set primarily to cover the cost of production…specifically, the cost of the “parts”. That’s actually quite a small part of the cost…there are legal costs, marketing, editing, proofreading, cover artist, lay-out, and so on.
When I would go to check, there were usually a few reasons why an e-book might be more than the p-book:
- It was a case of Amazon discounting the p-book more…the publisher had set the price of the e-book lower, but Amazon had discounted the p-book more deeply
- The comparison was to a p-book which had not yet been released…it was on pre-order
- The p-book was used or remaindered
I can eliminate the second two when I look. I’ll also try to pick just from the Big 5 US trade publishers…although smaller publishers could also be included in the AAP survey.
Okay, here are the top ten that fit those parameters:
|Rank||Paper List||Paperback||Kindle||Diff||Comp to List|
|1||$ 16.00||$ 9.89||$ 11.99||$ (2.10)||$ (4.01)|
|2||$ 16.00||$ 9.52||$ 11.99||$ (2.47)||$ (4.01)|
|5||$ 15.99||$ 9.39||$ 8.04||$ 1.35||$ (7.95)|
|6||$ 20.00||$ 12.00||$ 12.99||$ (0.99)||$ (7.01)|
|7||$ 15.99||$ 10.53||$ 13.99||$ (3.46)||$ (2.00)|
|8||$ 9.95||$ 5.81||$ 9.95||$ (4.14)||$ –|
|9||$ 14.99||$ 8.99||$ 7.99||$ 1.00||$ (7.00)|
|10||$ 16.00||$ 9.60||$ 11.99||$ (2.39)||$ (4.01)|
|12||$ 16.00||$ 9.40||$ 9.99||$ (0.59)||$ (6.01)|
|13||$ 16.99||$ 10.19||$ 11.99||$ (1.80)||$ (5.00)|
“Diff” compares the Kindle price to the paperback price…a negative number (in parentheses) means that the Kindle book costs more…which is the case in 8 out of 10 here. There are negative savings. In the last column, a bigger number means more savings with the Kindle book compared to the print list price. Every Kindle book is lower than the print list price.
Is this the same situation it was in the past? Is it because Amazon can freely discount p-books, but not e-books?
Generally, Amazon’s agreements with the biggest publishers are, reportedly, a modified version of the Agency Model. What that means is that Amazon has a limited ability to discount the books.
It still shows that the e-book price is “set by the publisher”, at least when I checked. We no longer see a digital price list.
My guess is that the publishers are setting the price of the e-books relatively high, but not higher than the list price for paper.
Wildsubnet’s comment got me thinking about something else.
I would not buy a p-book instead of an e-book, for me to read, if it was just a few dollars different. It is simply so much easier for me to read an e-book…I’d skip the book, in most cases.
That’s me, though…let me ask you:
If you don’t see an answer there that works for you, feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.
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