Carolyn Kellogg makes several excellent observations [What Amazon’s e-book numbers are and aren’t telling you, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 4, 2014] regarding a recent blog post from Amazon.
Yes, Amazon leans toward hyperbole. However, there is substance to the underlying message. As a publisher, I know that, over the long haul, it costs less to produce an ebook than a print book. The production is a one-time cost, and adding an ebook to the mix is comparatively inexpensive once the print book has been produced. Nor does the ebook have the recurring cost of printing.
So there is no reason other than corporate greed to price an ebook as high or even higher than a paperback (comparing it to a hardback is disingenuous, IMHO). As Kellogg says, readers have budgets. And if they can buy two or three or four ebooks for the price of a print book, that makes perfect economic sense. Will it result in more total sales of a title as Amazon claims? Hard say, because there are other variables involved (quality of writing, topic, etc.), but logically it would appear to be the case, to a point (priced too low and readers may not buy it either). Is $9.99 the “sweet spot”? That debate is still broiling.
One of Amazon’s contentions (assuming Amazon is being genuine) is that more of the revenue should go to the “content developers” (authors), and Amazon believes its approach can achieve that and still allow the publishers to achieve a reasonable profit. I agree with that wholeheartedly.
The real issue here is control of the market—and the New York publishing establishment is losing that battle. Books are not diamonds. These days anyone can produce a book. If the corporate-driven wannabe book cartel — Hachette, et al. — does not like the Amazon business model, perhaps it should find or create an alternative?