eReader price Wars are Escalating

So Amazon has slashed the price of the Kindel to $189, while Barnes & Noble have cut the price of the Nook to $199. B&N also said they would sell a wi-fi only Nook for $149.

IMO these are still too expensive, but they are definetely approaching my sweet spot. I have often thought the $99 was where they would end up.

I don’t care about the cost of the readers as much as I care about the cost of the books. I think that the cost of an ebook is way, way too high. Yes, there are some great bargains available, especially on classic books. But there are also great bargains available for dead tree editions, too.

It’s sort of like buying a printer, or a glucose meter. It’s not just the cost of the initial hardware, but the continuing cost of the supplies (ink or testing strips) that will determine how expensive the thing is in the long run.

I think that I’d want to see the average fiction ebook at a price of around five bucks. Publishers have been crying about how much pulp and ink and shipping have been costing them for years now. Well, let’s see them give the readers a price break when they DON’T have to pay for those costs.

I suspect the iPad is a big factor here. It has seriously cut into the sales of eBook readers. At almost $300, an eBook reader now looks grossly overpriced compared to the iPad.

The price of books isn’t bad - especially for Canadians. Print books here are grossly overpriced. A paperback that’s $7.99 in the U.S. might be $11.99 here, despite the dollar only being about 5 cents lower than the American dollar. A $26.95 hardcover will be in the neighborhood of $32.95 in a bookstore here.

So when I can get the Kindle version of a hardcover for $12, that’s a big savings.

Actually, I’ve seen a number of estimates that put the physical cost of the book, including the cost of printing, at about ten percent. Distribution is another 5 or so (which I’m assuming is more or less “free” with e-books, although servers and network connections cost money, so maybe not). Which doesn’t really make for a lot of savings on the e-book (although it doesn’t explain why most of the ebooks I own cost more than the paper ones).

Sony Reader is getting hooked up with libraries. I can check out ebooks from the San Diego library system. Selection isn’t big, but 97.8% of my reading is via library. Whoever wins the library war, wins me!

This is good news but as much as I’d love to have an e-reader in theory I have to agree with Lynn Bodoni. I can’t buy one unless the price of the e-books is also slashed dramatically.

See, that’s what I’m not getting. Why should an ebook cost more than a dead tree book? I looked up several books that I was interested in…and in all cases, the ebook was more expensive than the PB version, and sometimes more expensive than the hardcover version. DOES NOT COMPUTE. I’m not going to pay MORE for a format that costs the producer less (I assume that it costs the publisher less), and that is less easy for me to use. It would be extremely convenient for me to be able to have most of my library stored as ebooks, but if I’m given the option to read something on a screen or read it as a dead tree version, it’s easier for me to process the information from a dead tree.

I’ve thought a time or two about getting some sort of e-reader. But when I see the prices of books at or above the price I can get a real book for then I stop thinking about it. It’s the reason I haven’t bought too many albums electronically. Why should I pay more, have to put it on a CD to listen to in my car, and then have the possible loss of data.

If you want to depress yourself, you can read this New Yorker article, which is basically an extended whine about how evil Amazon was in offering ebooks for $10 when everyone one in the publishing industry knows that no real book ever cost less than $14 and that conditioning customers to expect lower prices will mean the collapse of the industry and the End Of Literature As We Know It.

It also gives figures - for a $26 hardback, the bookstore pays $13. The author’s 15% royalty is $3.90. Production costs are $1.80, distribution $1.70 and marketing $1. The remaining $4.60 is the publisher’s margin, which publishers are determined to protect.

The publishers won’t take a lower margin on ebooks than they will on physical books because they’re afraid of cannibalising the market and cutting their own revenue. But if you insist on $4 for the author and $5 for the publisher, then the final price of the book won’t go below $13-15, even if the seller cuts their margins and production and distribution cost nothing. Amazon was paying publishers $13 for ebooks and selling them at $10 to build market share and the publishers revolted, afraid that $10 would become the baseline price and publishers would end up getting squeezed. (Increase sales by reducing prices? The very idea.)

While I understand wanting ebooks to be cheaper (and so far every one of the couple hundred I’ve bought has been and certainly never more expensive) than the paper version I just look at it this way:

I was willing to pay $X for the ability to read book Y. I didn’t say “well, based on my estimate on how much it cost to manufacture this physical book I’m willing to pay $X” just “I want to read this and I’m willing to pay $X to do so.”

The book being in an electronic format doesn’t change that math for me. That’s not to say cost is irrelevant to me, just that justification of cost is irrelevant to me.

Overdrive, one of the biggest suppliers of library ebooks, also supports the Nook.

I agree. In fact, I may be willing to pay extra for the convenience of having it on my Kindle, rather than having the content locked to a >1 inch thick block of paper. (Depends on the book, of course. Definitely true for novels and non-fiction books, but not for technical books or reference books.)

See, I can’t afford my book habit. I easily read 2-3 books per week (which I know, is small potatoes around here). I only buy 2-3 books per year (books I checked out of the library and loved so much I had to own). I already think book costs are prohibitive.

Aboslutely, I’m fortunate in that I’m in a financial position where I can easily support whatever book habit I want.

But that wasn’t always the case. And if it is the case again, it’ll change how much I’m willing to spend on a book, but that decision won’t be impacted by how well the publisher can justify the price they’re charging.

Actually one reason I want an eReader is because for my work I have to read a lot of PDFs and take them with me. It would be so much easier to store them on eReader. Of course the books is another reason, and I agree with obfusciatrist about the cost. I don’t care on the format just whether or not I want to spend the money for the ability to read the book.

If I think that a widget manufacturer is price gouging, I don’t buy widgets from that manufacturer if I have a choice. Sure, there are people who are willing to pay $30 or so for a hardback novel when it first comes out. I am only willing to pay that much for a very few novels. I read most books in paperback, and used paperback at that. I do support some authors by buying their works new. However, I will only read a John Grisham or Steven King novel if I borrowed it from the library, or I found it on the clearance shelf at Half Price Books for one or two dollars. I’m not willing to spend more money than that to read those particular authors.

I view an ereader and the books I might or not have on it as something that offers me LESS convenience, not more. So that affects my perception of the value of an ebook. How often does an ereader need to be charged? What special care does it need? And frankly, I really don’t want to do any more research about which ereader has which feature…I’m burned out on researching various vehicles and appliances and other technologies. And I’m burned out on learning how to USE new gadgets.

I should note that I find it harder to read words (and view images) on a screen than on paper. The comic Order Of The Stick is available online, and yet I am willing to shell out between $25 and $30 for dead tree versions, because they are a heck of a lot easier for me to read. In fact, I wasn’t hooked on the online version until the local comic shop owner told me that I really should give the series a try. It’s not impossible for me to read from a screen, obviously, but it’s much easier for me to read something that’s not on a screen.

Well, my Kindle DX needs charging about once every month, and it is a back-saver. Rather than having to pack several books whenever I go on vacation or off to a tournament, I just pack the Kindle. The sucker is light, thin and even my 94 year old mother figured out how to use it in less than 5 minutes. The screen is the size of a regular hard-bound book, which means I can store textbooks on it as well. It’s just what I need. The iPad, however, is not. It is bulky, back-lit and useless. If I want to carry the laptop, I’ll carry the laptop. If I want to read, I’ll carry the Kindle. At last count I had 100+ books, 3 magazines and a few notes on it, and I haven’t even begun to use its memory.

I HATE trying to read text on a computer and so assumed that I’d feel the same way about an eReader. However, I don’t mind at all reading on my Kindle for iPhone app. In fact I enjoy it so much that I prefer reading via the Kindle vs paper books.

Figured I’d share since I was surprised by it.

Every manufacturer (and vendor) charges what the market will bear.

I guess that depends on whether you find it easier to carry a book or an eBook reader. I carry my Kindle all the time because it’s no more bulky than one paperback.

For the Kindle-2, if you keep the wireless off and using it an hour or so per day, the battery should last at least 10 days, probably more.

I keep it in a slip case so the screen doesn’t get scratched. That’s about it.

Get the Kindle-2 if you want the simplest reader. Get the Nook if you want a more flashy (but more complicated, and heavier) device.