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Old 08-05-2009, 11:21 AM   #1
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New York Times on Pricing/publishers

Although this article ostensibly is focused on the new Sony Readers, its discussion about pricing has great insight.


August 5, 2009
Sony to Cut E-Book Prices and Offer New Readers
By BRAD STONE and MOTOKO RICH
Adding to mounting tensions in the publishing industry over the pricing of electronic books, Sony Electronics announced Tuesday evening that it was lowering prices for new and best-selling books in its e-book store, to $9.99 from $11.99.

Book publishers have worried about the $9.99 flat price ever since Amazon.com introduced it for its Kindle reader in 2007, fearing that it could cannibalize sales of higher-priced hardcover books.

Sony is also introducing two new electronic reading devices: the Reader Pocket Edition and Reader Touch Edition. They will sell for $199 and $299 respectively and will go on sale at the end of August. The devices replace earlier and more expensive versions of the Sony Reader, the 505 and 700, which cost $269 and $399.

Although Sony’s reading devices are available in retail outlets like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, sales have lagged those of Amazon’s Kindle, which is sold only online and was recently reduced in price as well, to $299.

“The e-book industry has not hit the mainstream yet. We are focusing on affordability,” said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s Digital Reading Business Division.

Regarding the price cut for digital books, Mr. Haber said: “We have to offer value. It’s clear e-books should be less expensive than regular books, with the savings on printing and logistics getting passed on to the consumer.”

Book publishers will still retain their traditional cut of every e-book sale — about half the hardcover retail list price. But they are concerned that as online retailers like Amazon and Sony gain market power, they will eventually tire of losing money on e-book sales and ask publishers for lower wholesale prices, a move that would cut into their profit margins.

“We all know that these companies are taking a loss and that’s not going to continue forever,” said Jonathan Karp, publisher and editor in chief at Twelve, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group. But he added that “$9.99 has now become the effective price for e-books in August of 2009. Let’s just take a breath and see how long this lasts.”

In response to the $9.99 list price, some publishers are thinking about postponing the release of the digital versions of their most popular books, lengthening the period in which only the higher-priced hardcover versions are available. This is similar to the approach taken by Hollywood studios, which allow DVD sales and rentals only after a film has left theaters.

“To the extent that best-seller and new-release prices have really converged at the under-$10 price point, it is really going to heighten the attention paid to this whole release window question,” said David Steinberger, chief executive of Perseus Books.

The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, the division of Random House that is publishing “The Lost Symbol,” Dan Brown’s follow-up to “The Da Vinci Code,” will release the novel in hardcover in September but has yet to decide when it will release the electronic version.

Similarly, Twelve, which is publishing Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s memoir, “True Compass,” in hardcover in October, has not announced a release date for that e-book.

Sony’s price cut on digital books and the new devices may not be enough to help it catch up to Amazon. One significant drawback to Sony’s new devices is that, unlike the Kindle, they cannot connect wirelessly to an e-book store. Owners of Sony Readers must plug their devices into a computer to buy and download books.

The new Readers also cannot access magazines or newspapers, and Sony has yet to develop a version of its reading software for other devices like the iPhone. Mr. Haber from Sony said that the company was working on developing all of these features.

Sarah Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research, said Sony had publicly indicated that the two new devices were part of a new suite of e-reading products it would introduce this year. She said it was a “reasonable assumption” that Sony would introduce another device in the fall that had wireless features.

Sony had planned to unveil the two new Readers later this month, but images of the devices were posted on gadget blogs this week after one retailer prematurely added them to its online store.
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Old 08-05-2009, 12:06 PM   #2
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Interesting... nice to see someone acknowledge that ebooks should be cheaper than a hardback.
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Old 08-05-2009, 12:24 PM   #3
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One of the problems is that publishers are giving Amazon and other retailers the same cut for electronic books that they give for paper books.

I would much prefer to see lower RRPs on ebooks, and Amazon taking a much lower cut of the RRP - perhaps 30% would be reasonable. After all, the retailers have much lower overheads on electronic books than on paperbooks - no need for warehousing and handling them.

I dislike being dependant on Amazon's 'generosity' in giving a 40% discount on the RRP of ebooks for ebook prices to be anywhere near reasonable.

(My definition of a reasonable ebook price is $6 or less!)

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Interesting... nice to see someone acknowledge that ebooks should be cheaper than a hardback.
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Old 08-05-2009, 06:48 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by jenieliser View Post
Interesting... nice to see someone acknowledge that ebooks should be cheaper than a hardback.
Hmmm... that is not really how I read this article. How I understood it was that Amazon's fixed price of $9.99 has forced other stores to come down to the $10 mark. In turn this is causing publishers to get worried about the price. Two results will come out, publishers come down in price and lose profits or Bookstores give and increase the price. The article did actually look at a different alternative and that was that the publishers will release the eBook at a later date.


My take is thank you Amazon keep that pressure on and force the whole market to bring the price down on eBooks.

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Old 08-06-2009, 01:50 AM   #5
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Hmmm... that is not really how I read this article. How I understood it was that Amazon's fixed price of $9.99 has forced other stores to come down to the $10 mark. In turn this is causing publishers to get worried about the price. Two results will come out, publishers come down in price and lose profits or Bookstores give and increase the price. The article did actually look at a different alternative and that was that the publishers will release the eBook at a later date.
I think there is another option. They said that publishers/retailers are taking the same cut on eBooks as paper books. However the costs for printing/distributing/selling eBooks should be much lower. They can afford to lower the price and still keep the same profit margin. The revenue goes down, but so do the costs. They can pass that on to the consumers and still keep their same profits.
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Old 08-06-2009, 01:58 AM   #6
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The problem becomes, if e-books are earning even less for publishers than they are currently, publishers have less incentive to release e-book editions. With these price wars, I expect to see only best-sellers released in e-book form, and the publishers will wait until the book has been released in both hardback and paperback before putting an e-book edition out.
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:09 PM   #7
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The problem becomes, if e-books are earning even less for publishers than they are currently, publishers have less incentive to release e-book editions. With these price wars, I expect to see only best-sellers released in e-book form, and the publishers will wait until the book has been released in both hardback and paperback before putting an e-book edition out.
Lower prices (compared to paper books) don't necessarily mean lower earnings. The costs are lower too.
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:18 PM   #8
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Today's Coding Horror had an interesting entry about effect of reduced price on sales.
Quote:
The massive Steam holiday sale was also a big win for Valve and its partners. The following holiday sales data was released, showing the sales breakdown organized by price reduction:

10% sale = 35% increase in sales (real dollars, not units shipped)
25% sale = 245% increase in sales
50% sale = 320% increase in sales
75% sale = 1470% increase in sales
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:47 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by pdurrant View Post
One of the problems is that publishers are giving Amazon and other retailers the same cut for electronic books that they give for paper books.

I would much prefer to see lower RRPs on ebooks, and Amazon taking a much lower cut of the RRP - perhaps 30% would be reasonable. After all, the retailers have much lower overheads on electronic books than on paperbooks - no need for warehousing and handling them.

I dislike being dependant on Amazon's 'generosity' in giving a 40% discount on the RRP of ebooks for ebook prices to be anywhere near reasonable.

(My definition of a reasonable ebook price is $6 or less!)
The "standard" wholesale price of books is 55% discounted. i.e.: The publisher receives 45% of the list price. If Amazon deals with a wholesaler or a distributor, instead of directly with the publisher, perhaps it gets only a 40% or 45% discount.

Since with eBooks they deal directly with the publisher, and make no real investment of any sort in the book, short of adding it to their database, I don't see why Amazon's (or any eBook seller's) cut should be a cent above 10%.

Unless perhaps they are like Mobipocket, and have their database offered through hundreds (thousands?) of eBook stores throughout the internet.

- Ahi
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:48 PM   #10
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Today's Coding Horror had an interesting entry about effect of reduced price on sales.
I think the overlap between the Steam customers and eBook buyers would be too narrow for the figures to be meaningful for eBooks.

- Ahi

Ps.: Not to say I don't agree that lower prices wouldn't raise sales considerably.

Last edited by ahi; 08-06-2009 at 12:56 PM. Reason: added ps
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Old 08-07-2009, 10:58 AM   #11
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The key to lower prices for consumers and higher profits for publishers and authors is disintermediation.

The primary reason Baen can make money selling their eBooks so cheaply ($6.00 quantity one, cheaper in bundles -- my average cost per Baen e-book is $3.47) is that they've cut out two layers of middlemen. No more distributor taking a big slice. No bricks-and-mortar retailer, ditto.

Given the structure of paper book retailing, any eBook scheme that simply replicates that structure will be hard-pressed to deliver costs that are much cheaper than what we're seeing now. So get out there and push the publishers to set up their own stores. And push the retailers (like Sony, B&N, Amazon, etc. to take a smaller cut of eSales). And... well, you get the picture.

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Old 08-07-2009, 11:16 AM   #12
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Baen haven't entirely cut out the middle man. Arnold Bailey who runs webscriptions isn't a staff member of Baen, but his own boss.

So I'm sure Baen pay a cut to the retailer, Arnold, but I'm sure it's a lot less than the 65% that Amazon take from small publishers!

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The key to lower prices for consumers and higher profits for publishers and authors is disintermediation.

The primary reason Baen can make money selling their eBooks so cheaply ($6.00 quantity one, cheaper in bundles -- my average cost per Baen e-book is $3.47) is that they've cut out two layers of middlemen. No more distributor taking a big slice. No bricks-and-mortar retailer, ditto.

Given the structure of paper book retailing, any eBook scheme that simply replicates that structure will be hard-pressed to deliver costs that are much cheaper than what we're seeing now. So get out there and push the publishers to set up their own stores. And push the retailers (like Sony, B&N, Amazon, etc. to take a smaller cut of eSales). And... well, you get the picture.

Xenophon
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Old 08-07-2009, 11:24 AM   #13
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Baen haven't entirely cut out the middle man. Arnold Bailey who runs webscriptions isn't a staff member of Baen, but his own boss.

So I'm sure Baen pay a cut to the retailer, Arnold, but I'm sure it's a lot less than the 65% that Amazon take from small publishers!
This is true. But Arnold also takes on more of the expenses for the e-Publishing than do Amazon or Fictionwise or... Specifically, he bears the full cost of converting from whatever format the publisher provides.* And the cost of scan-and-proof work on old titles. And a variety of other things that were not specified in the posts I recall from Baen's Bar. In this sense, he's more like a corporate partner than like a distributor.

*He can influence the format, but doesn't control it. And he does a good deal more prep-work than the other e-Book places. All of this is because Webscriptions got started under the "no new work for Jim" (Baen, that is) approach. That means it's a little hard to disentangle the distributor part of the picture from the e-publishing partner part.

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Old 08-07-2009, 11:54 AM   #14
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I think there is another option. They said that publishers/retailers are taking the same cut on eBooks as paper books.
Hmm Again that is not what I read. My interpretation is the Publishers are saying that Amazon, Sony, B&N are all losing money with their $9.99 price cap and that is not going to last. The publishers concern is that one of two things will happen, retailers demand list prices go down and they get a cut or they will eventually increase the price. My take is they are very concerned about the former.

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The problem becomes, if e-books are earning even less for publishers than they are currently, publishers have less incentive to release e-book editions. With these price wars, I expect to see only best-sellers released in e-book form, and the publishers will wait until the book has been released in both hardback and paperback before putting an e-book edition out.
Unfortunately that is my read as well. I've always believed the physical cost of a hardback vs a paper back was small, now I'm sure this is the case.

That might be what they are planning but as ereaders continue to grow the pressure will get to high for them to go this route they will be losing money.

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Today's Coding Horror had an interesting entry about effect of reduced price on sales.
Thanks igorsk that was an interesting statistic. I wonder how overall sales compare to a wholesaler who keeps their prices low year round vs a retailer that increases sales with sales

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The key to lower prices for consumers and higher profits for publishers and authors is disintermediation.

The primary reason Baen can make money selling their eBooks so cheaply ($6.00 quantity one, cheaper in bundles -- my average cost per Baen e-book is $3.47) is that they've cut out two layers of middlemen. No more distributor taking a big slice. No bricks-and-mortar retailer, ditto.

Given the structure of paper book retailing, any eBook scheme that simply replicates that structure will be hard-pressed to deliver costs that are much cheaper than what we're seeing now. So get out there and push the publishers to set up their own stores. And push the retailers (like Sony, B&N, Amazon, etc. to take a smaller cut of eSales). And... well, you get the picture.

Xenophon
I don't think this is true. What I suspect is really drives the prices of books is that most books are money pits they lose money on most and the few that make money must carry the company. That means paying the CEO his high salary, paying for the staff, marketing, stock holders in addition to the cost you mentioned.

Bean is a more efficiently run company I'd be willing to wager that their CEO does not garnish a salary in the millions like some of the popular publishing firms. They also have great staff of writers that contribute to their success.

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Old 09-10-2009, 10:28 PM   #15
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More recent article on the Kennedy memoir delay and e-book pricing

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009...pass%22&st=cse
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