I've got a lot of friends in the UK who were very excited to see the addition of Kindle to the UK store. Kindle, I've noticed, has separated out the UK sales from the US sales in our royalties - probably because authors are still getting 35% on their UK sales, while from the US sales, they're getting 70% (as long as the book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99).
In spite of low author royalties in the UK, Amazon is scrambling to deep-discount books before agency pricing starts to take effect in the UK, as it did in the US (much to most consumers' chagrin!) It seems that Amazon wants to brand the consumer's brain with the idea that books should be priced on average at $2.99 - and certainly no higher than $9.99. And while I certainly agree with the latter, I'm not so sure about the former $2.99 price point.
Besides, it looks like Amazon wasn't quite fast enough. Hachette, the UK's largest publisher, is taking the same route the Big Six publishers in the U.S. have taken - they are demanding agency pricing from Amazon on Kindle books sold in the UK.
And the price-wars continue...
Will the investigation into price-fixing by the Texas Attorney General come to anything? Who will win in the end? Who knows?
But we all know consumers and authors both lose if books continue to be over-priced the agency way. Some of the forums on Amazon are eye-opening, with consumers threatening boycotts of overpriced books (and their authors). Granted, I happen to think some Kindle folks are a little extreme about ebook pricing, thinking full-length books should be priced at $2.99.
Because ebooks are such an ethereal sort of thing, people are loathe to pay much for them. I get that. After all, you can't share them with a friend, and there's always the fear your hard drive may crash (or your ebook vendor will go out of business) and your e-library might disappear. Ebooks don't seem quite "real" - even if you're actually getting the same amount/time of entertainment with them that you would with a hardcover.
It's hard to wrap our heads around paying $9.99 for something that doesn't quite seem "real." But think about it - we do that now when we go to the theater to see a movie. (In fact, if you're into buying popcorn, you pay quite a bit more). And you don't get to take that movie home with you, or get to watch it again, the way you get to read an ebook.
Now, granted, if you're a bargain-hunter like me, you can go see a matinee show for $3.75, or the twilight show for $4.75 (your mileage may vary depending on your state - or country - of origin). Or you can wait to buy the DVD and have it to watch over and over (at least until it gets all scratched - am I the only one who misses VHS for that reason?)
So why should a bargain ebook be $0.99 and a full-length novel ebook be priced at $2.99? Could we be down-valuing the medium?
Personally, I think ebooks should be priced based on length. This model has been used by indie ebook publishers for over ten years. (Yes, it's true, there were thriving ebook publishers and distributors before Kindle!)
Our own eXcessica pricing is based on length:
$0.99 Short Shorts: Under 3K
$1.99 Shorts: 3-7K
$2.99 Stories: 7-15K
$3.99 Novelettes: 15-35K
$4.99 Novellas: 35-50K
$5.99 Novels 50-70K
$6.99 Super Novels: 70-140K
$7.99 Super XL Novels: 140-250K
$8.99 Super XXL Novels: 250K +
It's a good, and I think fair system for both authors and consumers. I mean, come on - the average candy bar costs $0.99 - and I think a short little story is probably more nourishing than a Snickers.
Remember what you're paying for - the amount of time you get to be entertained by a book.
In a world where everything has gone Supersize for so little investment - where you can get a Gazillion Ounce Big Gulp Slurpee for $0.99, but "real" food (i.e. an organic apple, for example) costs so much more - we have developed a Wal-Mart mentality where we want everything for nothing.
But the reality is you still get what you pay for - a $0.99 Slurpee is something that took very little energy to produce. The apple, on the other hand, took a long time to grow, and under the loving, watchful eye of an organic farmer.
So with ebooks. A $0.99 book should be a short-short - something it took an author perhaps an afternoon or two to write and polish. A 100,000 word tome that took a writer half of his life to complete, might, perhaps, deserve a little more investment.
There has to be a middle ground between the price-gouging of agency model and the deep discounts of Amazon and Wal-Mart. I think basing ebook price on length might just be the place we're looking for.