The eBook is still a relatively new format and so there is still plenty of room for experimentation with eBook pricing. One of the benefits of the digital format is that there need not be any standard retail price. Prices can be changed at any time to remain competitive, promote the title, and take advantage of market trends. Beth Bacon outlines strategies for pricing an eBook in her article “7 Must-Consider Strategies for Ebook Pricing.”
One strategy is to charge extra for convenience. She suggests that immediate access may be worth something to consumers and thus worth a few dollars more. Instant gratification is something that appeals greatly to today’s consumers. Readers would likely be willing to pay a little more so that they can keep reading without the interruption of a trip to the store.
Another strategy involves raising the prices of an eBook based on the value of the book. Books by premium authors should be worth more than books by unknown authors. She argues that in print books, the price of the book is more often determined by the price of paper and the print costs rather than the value of the book. With eBooks, the cost remains the same, or close to the same, for all books. Creating a brand for an author, and charging more for that brand is a potential way to raise prices on eBooks. If a particular author is seen to be worth more than consumers will pay to read that author.
She addresses the possibility of marking books as free to gain market share. This is not always effective, especially when so many self-published authors are doing it, and it can also be seen to devalue the book; however, it does have the potential to generate sales if done correctly. For example, marking the first book of a series as free may result in sales for the next book in the series, as readers would be willingly to pay to find out what happens next. Setting an eBook as free is a worthwhile experiment that is only an option because of the freedoms and flexibility of digital publishing. Authors and retailers can experiment with prices with essentially no risk in order to find the “sweet spot” as Bacon calls it. It is possible to discover what the reader is willing to pay for what titles by experimenting with prices. This experimentation will increase sales and give the consumer the price they want, and hopefully one that both the author and publisher are happy with.
Another valuable suggestion is to price the newer eBooks higher than the older ones. When it comes to books, new is always better, and this proves true in digital publishing as well. In print books, if a reader wants to save money, that reader has to wait for the soft cover. This model can be carried over into the world of digital publishing. The reader who wants the book right away is willing to pay more than the reader who waits.
Bacon’s article clearly demonstrates the various options presented with digital publishing with regards to pricing. The eBook industry is new and still open to experimentation. Publishers should take advantage of this flexibility to discover what price works best for what titles. Essentially, the price of a book is whatever a reader is willing to pay for it, not the number stamped on the back.