Friday, October 28

Paying for first

Seth Godin:
Here’s a bit of speculation:

Soon, there will be three kinds of books on the Kindle.

$1.99 ebooks. This is the clearing price for virtually all ebooks going forward.

$5 ebooks. This is the price for bestsellers, hot titles and books you have no choice but to buy because they were assigned in school.

$10 ebooks. This is the price you will pay to get the book first, to get it fast, to get it before everyone else. There might even be a subset of books for $20 in this category.

For example the new Steve Jobs book. The only reason it wasn’t onsale two weeks ago is that the publisher needed to move tons of molecules from the printer to the store. That means ebook readers have been waiting so that the paper readers could get their copy.

The analogy is paperback and hardcover. You paid extra for the hardcover because it was first and because it was a classy thing to display on the wall. A year later, the very same book is half the price or less as a paperback.

One of the unused features of digital ebooks is that the price can change easily, daily, by volume and by demand.

Starting soon, you’ll pay extra for the hot, fresh ebook (at $20, the publisher can do quite well for two weeks while we wait for the hardcover, thanks very much) and you’ll pay a lot less when it’s on the clearance rack.
- Seth Godin, The Domino Project, Paying For First

I've been working on my bedbug post for the last bit (yes, bedbugs! I'm going to post it in an hour or so) so when I came across this post I thought it was interesting because it talks about how the form of a book -- electronic versus paper -- changes things. And it's Seth Godin, everyone loves Seth Godin!


  1. I read this post too, and have to admit I was a little confused by it. I have to presume he's talking about legacy publishers because everybody knows that there are tons of $.99 Indie books out there (some writers have even become millionaires that way). But... I don't see many of the $1.99 books he's talking about from legacy publishers either. Most of their e-books are $9.99 and up unless they're on sale, and they don't seem interested in selling e-books at a lower price, period.

    The other thing is that $1.99 is a lousy price point. You get a lower royalty rate than $2.99 and you lose the competitive advantage of $.99, so unless the legacy pubs are getting a different deal (and they very well may be) I don't get the logic. $5 might be a nice price point for bestsellers, but again, where are all the $5 books by King, Patterson, etc.? Again, I have to presume he's got information I don't have. I'd sure like to know what it is.

  2. Jamie, good points. I had my bedbug post scuttling around in my noggin so what I focused on was what Seth Godin was saying about the different possibilities for ebooks compared to print books.

    I supposed that he was, like all the best philosophers, snuggled into a lazy boy recliner by a crackling fire, black cat on his lap, gazing blankly off into space whilst he contemplated the essential differences between ebooks and print books.

    As you point out, with Amazon's pricing system authors are not encouraged to sell at the $1.99 price point and there aren't a lot of traditional publishers selling at the $5 price point. But let me play devil's advocate -- I always did love the color red. This is still early days in the new world of the ebook, who knows how things are going to fall out.

    * Karen pads back over to her fire *


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