The ebook price “wars”

When you think of “price wars” you picture two rival companies going at it, head to head, to try to steal each other’s business by undercutting prices. Both businesses have item X for sale. Business A places item X at 9.99 and then Business B places the same item at 7.99 to outsell Business A. Business A then undercuts Business B by selling the same item at 5.99. This goes on until one of the businesses realizes the item can not be sold below the price the business paid for it.

But what about ebooks? How could a “price war” effect the sales of an industry that is now being dominated by indie writers who primarily self-publish? Let’s take a look and see what this means.

When you think of indie writers, what comes to mind? For the longest time the majority of the population thought it to be a small group of people willing to produce unprofessional books that could only be published via vanity publishing after all of the traditional publishers rejected the work. And that was true…for a while. Now? Not so much.

Now you have some incredible writers, producing amazing books, and avoiding the middle man by self-publishing. It makes perfect sense. We indie writers no longer have to be oppressed by the unbending “big 6 publishers” rules that say:

  • Your book must fit within standard genres.
  • Your book must be a certain length.
  • You must be a marketable commodity (even before we publish).

And now that many publishers also require their writers to help in the marketing of their book! So, instead of being forced into a box, where few writers want to be placed anyway, indie writers have set out on their own to forge new grounds and, as you might expect, boldly go where no writer has gone before! Create new genres, bend the rules, break the rules, create the new rules.

This leads to the issue of price. And I will make a fairly bold statement by saying both the lower and upper ends of the ebook price point are brought to you by Apple. That’s right. When Apple brought out the iPad they knew they wanted users to read books with their new toy. But they wanted their cut of that book pie to be as large as it could be. So Apple helped themselves out by forcing some of the big publishers to demand a higher pricing standard. So the average cost of a new release raises from 9.99 to 12.99. Apple also has had a direct impact on the bottom of the price range. How? The iPhone. Most iPhone apps are priced around .99 cents. This is a price point consumers have grown accustomed to for downloads. Now, ebooks are seen as “downloads” and the average consumer sees no reason why they should pay more then the standard .99 cents for them.

I want to mention something that a lot of people don’t want to bring up. Most of the indie authors I know, myself included, are going to great lengths to make sure the books we produce are of the highest quality. I personally pay for an editor to proof my work and do everything I can to present the most professional product possible.

Because of these “price wars” indie authors seem to feel it necessary to drop their work into the .99 cent zone. This has both a positive and negative effect. The positive being that readers see .99 cents attached to a full-length novel and think “I can take a chance on an unknown writer for .99 cents!” The opposite of that is when readers see the .99 cent price tag and assume the book to belong in the standard “bargain bin”. I can happily tell you the latter is simply not true. In fact, I have read indie writers that blow away other writers who have been published by a big 6 publisher numerous times.

Take, for instance, Dan Brows “Lost Symbol”. I paid the full 9.99 for that book on my Kindle and, upon completing the book, wanted so badly for my money and time back. The work was horrible. I’ve also read plenty of free and .99 cent ebooks by unknown writers that I absolutely loved!

My point being, when best-selling authors have books that should go straight to the bargain bin, it safe to say that nothing is a given. No one should assume:

  • A self-published book is not worth reading.
  • A .99 cent book isn’t worth reading.
  • A book published by a major publishing house will be free from errors and a quality read.
  • A 12.99 dollar book will be good.

We live in a new world, with a new economy, where technology has finally made it possible for the dreams of writers across the globe to be given life. As one of those writers I want to thank every reader out there giving us unknowns a chance. Every time you purchase an unknown writer (even if it’s at .99 cents) you are helping to make someone’s dream come closer to a reality. We wouldn’t be doing what we do if it weren’t for you.