Smashwords’ iPad Deal Details eBook Pricing Structure

Smashwords on the iPadBy Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World

March 28, 2010 – In an email sent out to Smashwords authors earlier this evening (disclosure: I have a free echapbook of poetry available there), Mark Coker announced a distribution deal with Apple that would make eBooks in its “Premium Catalog” available for purchase via the iPad’s iBookstore, scheduled to launch on April 3rd.

The Premium Catalog has “higher mechanical standards” than their typical Meatgrinder-generated eBook, and enables authors to make their eBooks available beyond’s web site.

If you’re a serious author or publisher, you want your books included in Smashwords Premium Catalog…

As of this writing (3/17/10), our feed to B&N has been fully operational for several months. Kobo is now operational. Sony is now selling about 200 of our books, we we believe we are within a week or two of shipping 6,000+ books to them. We will ship to Amazon next, though only after we institute some new formatting standards required by Amazon.

Prior to the iPad deal, inclusion in the Premium Catalog was contingent upon meeting some basic production standards, including EPUB format, quality book cover images and copyright pages. The email from Coker notes some additional requirements specific to the iPad, including an ISBN (not previously required for the Premium Catalog, but now available for purchase via Smashwords), and details an iBookstore pricing structure based on the list price of the print version of the eBook.

If your book is not available in print, you can price your book at any price you like. Free is an acceptable price at Apple.

If you do have print editions, here are the rules you must follow:

For ebooks, if you publish print counterparts elsewhere as mass market paperbacks (small, airport size) or trade paperback, then allowable pricing bands are as follows:

For all print books published with a list price of $22.00 or less, your Smashwords ebook price cannot be greater than $9.99 during the first twelve (12) months after publication in those print formats. Thereafter, you, the publisher may set whatever price you want, provided Apple doesn’t deem it unrealistic.

For any mass market or trade paperback books with a list price greater than $22.00, you can set whatever price you want.

If your book is only available in Hardcover, and the Hardcover price is under $22.00 (U.S.), then the maximum allowable price for your ebook is $9.99.

If your price is $22.01-$24.00, the maximum ebook price is $10.99;
$24.01-$25.00 is $11.99;
$25.01-$27.50 is $12.99;
$27.51-$30.00 is $14.99;
$30.01-$35.00 is $16.99;
$35.01-$40.00 is $19.99.

If your hardcover book is priced above $40.00, you can price your Apple ebook at any price you like.

Click for larger imageBased on this pricing structure, 12 of the 14 NY Times Bestselling Fiction titles currently featured in Amazon’s Kindle store would be priced higher in the iBookstore.

One would be the same price (Apple Turnover Murder @ $9.99), and one would be cheaper (Union Atlantic, Kindle @ $14.30; iPad @ $12.99).

NOTE: Publishers Lunch adds a NY Times Bestseller disclaimer to story: “Missing from the email, given the track record of the Smashwords list, are the additional provisions that move the maximum price down to $12.99 once a hardcover makes the NYT bestseller list, regardless of the print price.”

While Random House remains the only one of the “Big 6” publishers not signed up with Apple, two other deals last week significantly increased the inventory expected to be available at launch as Perseus announced a deal that includes eBooks from the 330 independent publishers they distribute, and Project Gutenberg’s library of 30,000 DRM-free public domain eBooks will also be available to iPad’s early adopters.

Smashwords’ current inventory is relatively small, made up of predominantly unknown authors and eBooks, but if they can get the iBookstore feed up and running quickly, and their Amazon feed straightened out, this deal makes them an intriguing option for traditionally published authors who have rights to their own eBooks and have watched authors like J.A. Konrath and Lee Goldberg have some success selling their own eBooks on the Kindle.

You have to wonder how many Random House authors are double-checking their contracts right this minute…?

UPDATE: Self-proclaimed “digital book militant” Mike Cane has a sneak peek at the iBookstore and, not surprisingly, is very excited about what he saw:

I imagined myself using an iPad and looking at these.

So there I was, holding a device that cost between $500-$870. Looking at these books. And you know what I thought? I thought: These are books I can finally buy because this machine I’m holding is something that will be permanent in my life. It doesn’t feel like or look like a disposable thing, like every eInk device. Those will go away. The iPad will not.

I think that’s what millions of people are going to think too. And they are going to buy books in record numbers. They’ve already experienced such transactions with Apple by purchasing music, videos, and apps. They’ve bought those things because their iPods, Macs, and iPhones are seen as permanent in their lives. They will see the iPad in that same way too.

The iPad really does change everything for books.

Amazon’s days of domination are coming to an end.

On last week’s Roundtable we discussed Amazon vs. Apple, and the consensus was — over the next 12 months, at least — that Amazon was more likely to benefit from increased eBook sales via their cross-platform Kindle apps than Apple would via the iBookstore.

What do you think?

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is the Chief Executive Optimist for Digital Book World.

9 thoughts on “Smashwords’ iPad Deal Details eBook Pricing Structure

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  3. Theresa M. Moore

    I have an opposite view. For months after I signed up with Smashwords I had 0 sales. Hundreds of samples downloaded but no sales. Even if I did offer the ebooks for dirt cheap over Christmas I still could not sell them. I was in competition with hundreds of badly written FREE ebooks. How do you expect me to make any royalities at all if I then have to pay for an ISBN for each ebook, which is subject to rejection by a flawed program in the first place? I wasted months getting the books into the proper format for upload to Smashwords’ conversion engine. They were available on the premium channel, even Barnes & Noble, and still no sales. Then, suddenly they were no longer acceptable for distribution. Their own news page spoke of snafus, and outages and other barriers, and I was patient until I realized that it was never going to happen. Mr. Coker talked down to me when I pointed this out. No, let me tell you that I will never trust Smashwords to publish anything of mine. When Apple opens its publishing portal to us independents who work hard to make our books the best they can be, and who already sell quite well outside of the “big” booksellers, I will be right there.

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