The $14.99 e-Book Backlash

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Angry readers are showing that a price will be paid by publishers that try to charge more than $9.99 per e-book. Online guerrilla saboteurs are leaving one-star ratings and awful reviews, apparently as acts of vengeance.

The NY Times reports:

When digital editions have cost more, or have been delayed until after the release of hardcover versions, these raucous readers have organized impromptu boycotts and gone to the Web sites of Amazon and Barnes & Noble to leave one-star ratings and negative comments for those books and their authors.

“This book has been on the shelves for three weeks and is already in the remainder bins,” wrote Wayne Fogel of The Villages, Fla., when he left a one-star review of Catherine Coulter’s book “KnockOut” on Amazon. “$14.82 for the Kindle version is unbelievable. Some listings Amazon should refuse when the authors are trying to rip off Amazon’s customers.”

Price creep is fairly standard practice. To entice customers to try out a new product, the manufacturers introduce it with a low, perhaps even profit-losing price. After they get consumers hooked, they jack up the price. It doesn’t even have to be a new product: The “low introductory” price of cable and Internet providers or “low introductory” credit card rates basically work the same way. That is, those low intro offers don’t stay low for long—by which time, the companies you’re in business with hope you’re too lazy to do anything about it.

I don’t own a Kindle and have never read a book digitally, but I can see why this type of price increase would drive fans crazy. The $9.99 price seemed fairly established. Nothing has occurred to make it more expensive for publishers to pump out digital versions of books. As many consumers see it, there is no cost whatsoever to producing one more copy of an e-book. So how can you justify a price increase?

From the Times story:

“I just don’t want to be extorted,” said Joshua Levitsky, a computer technician and Kindle owner in New York. “I want to pay what it’s worth. If it costs them nothing to print the paper book, which I can’t believe, then they should be the same price. But I just don’t see how it can be the same price.”

A woman quoted in the story says:

“I’m still a library-goer. There are enough good books out there that I don’t need to pay more than I want to. I already can’t keep up with what I have.”

While I can understand the “here we go again” anger and frustration, and I’m well aware that there are a million different ways to entertain oneself beyond reading, book publishing is a business—a struggling business, as we’ve been hearing for years. Authors and publishers have to get paid somehow. Every e-book sold means fewer sales for the paper edition, and so publishers will be playing with how much they can charge. Readers always have the choice to buy or not. How much is a fair price? We’ll see: It’s called the marketplace.

Related:
The Early Adopter: Trendsetter or Sucker?
Are You Experiencing “Next Great” Whatever Fatigue?

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