The Future Will Not Be Printed

I haven’t had much time to post recently. My job, hot yoga and preparations for an upcoming family reunion have taken up more and more of my time. In the time I’ve been away, the publishing world has continued to undergo rapid change. Most notably, Amazon has announced that ebooks now outsell all printed books on Amazon now claims that since April 1, for every 100 print books that Amazon has sold, they have sold 105 Kindle ebooks. They also claim that they have already sold more than 3x as many Kindle ebooks in 2011 then they did for all of 2010.

However you want to cut it, that is a significant shift in how the public consumes literature. It’s not surprising. Ebooks are cheaper, more convenient, and more portable. But their rapid growth since the introduction of the Kindle and iPad are no less impressive.

The growth of the Ebook sales and its growing acceptance by the public through multiple devices such as the Kindle, iPad, and other tablets has begun to challenge the current pricing model. Narasu Rebbapragada from PCWorld has a fascinating article on the subject. I won’t review the entire document, but I would say that the current prices for ebooks are far too high. The strength of app and music sales from iTunes comes from impulse buying where customers instantly buy what they want without stopping to think about their pocketbook. If the customer has to think about the price then you’ve probably lost a sale. Personally, I believe that $4.99 is the most appropriate price point. It’s reasonable high enough to differentiate its higher value in comparison to songs or apps, but it’s low enough that the consumer is not going to worry too much about the price. $5 is an easily digestible sweet spot.

That said, I don’t have too much of a problem with the publishing industry’s agency model. Personally, I believe that they can and should be able to set the price to whatever they want. If they believe that they can sell a book at $14.99, then it is their right to set their price. I believe that they’re wrong but I’m not going to begrudge them their right to do so. Besides, with hundreds of thousands of books available now, it’s not  like the customer doesn’t have other choices. For me, it’s an advantage. The high price point creates a opportunity for cheaper, independent books to gain a greater share of the market.

It is indeed the Wild West and nobody knows exactly how it will turn out. However, one thing remains true: we are entering an age of complete literary freedom. Anybody can publish a book and anybody can sell a book. The publishing world has become a free market. It will be fascinating to see what it can produce.

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