Imagine a cold winter day in New England. Now, imagine wanting a particular book. You have three options, according to Frank Luby, a pricing consultant and former journalist, speaking at the Copy Right Clearance Center’s OnCopyright 2014 conference in New York.
You could brave the cold and, presumably, snow, get in your car, drive to the nearest Barnes & Noble to hope that the store has a copy. If it doesn’t have one, perhaps a nearby location does. You can buy the book from the store and drive home.
Alternatively, you could log on to Amazon.com and purchase the book and have it delivered to your door in a matter of days.
Or, you can pick up your Kindle, Nook, iPad or other e-reading device and have the book in your hands in a matter of moments.
“Ebooks are terribly misnamed,” said Luby. “They’re not a product. They’re a reader service.”
Luby argued that the convenience that ebooks offer over their print counterparts are a great benefit that publishers and retailers should charge readers more for.
“Ebooks should be more expensive than they are, more than print books — a lot more,” said Luby, adding that ebooks are relatively cheap because publishers and retailers don’t properly explain their benefits, namely, convenience.
While book publishers have generally shown discomfort at low prices for ebooks, citing the high cost of acquiring and developing content and unfavorable comparisons to print book, ebook retailers, most notably Amazon, have been largely in favor of lower prices for ebooks. In the early days of Kindle, the low cost of ebooks was cited as a reason for spending several hundreds dollars on a device to purchase them. Retailers have also of late been in a battle for market share and price is a weapon of choice for some.
In 2012, when the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with some of the largest U.S. publishers over the issue of ebook price fixing, an Amazon spokesperson made the following statement: “This is a big win for Kindle owners, and we look forward to being allowed to lower prices on more Kindle books.”
When Amazon made that statement, the average price of a best-selling ebook was hovering around $9.00. This week, the average price of a best-selling ebook was $6.42.