E-books and e-readers have become so popular so quickly that it is hard now to remember now that we were all happily paying $25 or more for a book not so long ago. Amazon’s Kindle in particular has been responsible for bringing the e-book to market, but e-book prices have lowered the value of a book by so much, the returns for authors and publishers are diminishing rapidly by the day.
Yes, one can argue that e-books sell in greater volumes, but I completely disagree with this. E-book sales have replaced traditional book sales, and at great cost. This is proven by the financial hardship that has been felt by bookstores. Border’s bankruptcy is a good example of how serious the effect has been.
There is just no way that $25 or more can be replaced by $2.99, $0.99 or even free and expect that returns will stay the same. This financial pain is being felt by all the major publishers, and all the way down to independent or self published authors. The cost of producing an e-book though is not cheap. It’s fair to say that a physical book needed to be printed, but the printing cost of a book has always been very cheap. Around $2 per copy for a paperback. So at $25 there was plenty of margin.
The real expense however, is in editing, formatting, cover design, promotion and advertising. For the big publishers, this could amount to $10,000 or more per book. Even for a self published author this can run into thousands of dollars. Yet, even the big names in publishing cannot get more that $7 or $8 for an e-book. For the independents, $2.99 is about as higher a price as the market will pay. Take out the online retailer’s cut and it’s a long road to a return on investment.
Unfortunately though, selling e-books even at these prices is becoming more difficult as $0.99 and free e-books are really where the sales action is. With Amazon’s two tiered pricing model that returns 33% on a $0.99 sale, but 70% on a sale price of $2.99 and above, the choice is difficult for a publisher or author. But either way, it takes a very long time and a lot of sales to break even on the costs involved in preparing a book for sale.
So, the simple answer is not to spend so much on preparing a book. At $0.99 and a return of $0.33 per book sale, how many e-books need top be sold just to recover the editing costs of say around $1,000 alone? So the solution is simple. Don’t spend money on preparing a masterpiece.
However, book buyers still expect the same quality as they were getting when they were paying $25. I hear many complaints from readers about errors, typos and poor formatting in ebooks they read. I have seen these errors for myself in e-books I have purchased from major publishers as well as independents. One aspect of e-books that is overlooked by many is that there are so many different e-book file types and formats, that no matter how careful the preparation, errors will occur simply due to file conversion. It is impossible to prepare an e-book, even in the just the eight most popular formats, and attain error free files unless a lot of time and money is spent.
As an example, the last book I published on Smashwords took more than six weeks of very hard work to get all the file types approved for publication. And I don’t expect even after all this work that all the files are perfect.
So dear readers, get used to it. Welcome to the new ‘el cheapo’ e-book market. What did you expect for $0.99? $25 quality?
And as an aside, the reader (shall remain nameless) who boasted of downloading 70 free e-books and then loudly complaining the the quality of the books was awful, is a good example of the market today. Did you really expect expensive $25 perfection for free?