Things Publishers Fear: #4 ~ Price

I’ve put the fourth part of my series on modern publishing live over on EoinPurcell.com:

Price is a problem in the real world as well as the digital one. You only need to look to last winter’s price war in the US to see that. Amazon and Walmart kicked each other (and publishers) in the head to prove they had the best price for some key hardcover titles. The price point flavour of the day was $9.99. Then Target joined the fray.

The problem of course is that these price wars and ebook protests are driving a value perception home in consumers minds. On the one hand it reinforces the idea of ebooks being “worth” less than physical books and on the other, the price of physical books is too high, why else would retailers be selling them at such large discounts.

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5 comments

  1. Hi Eoin.

    I think pricing is a huge issue facing publishers today. You’re right – Amazon et al have put this magic $9.99 price into consumers heads, particularily in relation to eBooks. This is going to be a hard perception to break. Publishers need to be careful here – there is a fine line between obtaining a” reasonable” (whatever that may be) sale price for a title and pushing readers towards pirated copies of eBooks.

    Free also does work – see Paulo Coehlo and James Patterson for examples of this.

    Keep up the good work Eoin and lets get some discussion going!

  2. Thanks Gareth!

    I think they idea that Free Works can be dangerous.
    – What are you hoping to achieve with Free?
    – Where’s the plan?
    – What’s the long term strategy?
    We tend not to ask these questions when we should. Short term thinking and evidence won’t win the day. We need to plan for a longer shift in the industry and think about the impact current action, especially radical ones will have in that!

    Eoin

    1. I think you’re absolutely right in regards to “free”. I meant to just quote some examples that appear to have worked.
      In the case of Patterson, providing the first in a series of books as a free tester or hook seems to have worked in their favour. You can see similar examples where the first chapter or previews of a book can increase sales – by more than 20% according to some sources.

      I do agree however that any free needs to be part of a coherent, long-term strategy. Relying on anecdotal evidence or hoping for the best are not great business strategies!

      Hopefully there will come a time when a happy medium is struck whereby consumers are happy to pay what is seen a fair price for content of real value. This means lowering publisher/author expectations but also re-educating readers on the value of content. At the moment, almost everything including news and entertainment are free on the internet, so presenting books as content worth paying for is difficult, but certainly not impossible.

      All in all, this industry is going to change massively in the next few years and how it will turn out, neither you or I or anyone else for that matter can say.

  3. Free is huge. Free is typically followed up with a subscription based service. That is because those types of business models create a lot of residual income and are very attractive to potential buyers. Online is all about Free. If the service is good enough you will eventually pay for it.

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