Ebook Pricing Revisited – How much is too much?

I wrote a post about this topic last year and thought it was worth revisiting as the problem only seems to have gotten worse.

For the past five to six years, I’ve read nothing but Ebooks.  Some 600+ ebooks have graced my Kindle Paperwhite in that time. Many of these digital books I receive from the publishers via NetGalley or Edelweiss, but I also buy a LOT of books.

February is my birthday month. I’m hoping that at least one of my gifts is an Amazon gift card. As I perused my Amazon ‘Wishlist’ this morning (as you do), I wondered once again, what makes some of these Ebooks SO expensive, while others are dirt cheap?

Ebook pricing has always been an enigma to me. I want the author to reap the benefits of their work. No one appreciates authors more than avid readers like myself. However, how can something that is essentially just a digital file cost almost as much as a hardback book in some instances?  Do the authors receive the same amount from the sale of a hardback book, a paperback book, and an Ebook?

Some Ebooks are very expensive – given that they are only a digital file (no production costs, no delivery fees, etc.) Here are some costly examples that are lingering on my Amazon wishlist because I feel they are just TOO EXPENSIVE!

IF I were to splurge and buy these SEVEN titles it would cost me $176.53 Canadian – which averages out to be $25.00 per book.

To make this clearer to my American and United Kingdom friends that would be a total cost of $139.45 U.S. dollars or £103.02 pounds sterling (as per today’s exchange rates)

Average price being $19.92 US dollars and/or £14.72 pounds per book.

What is the MOST you would pay for an Ebook?

What is your theory as to why some Ebooks are available for .99¢ whilst others go for $29.99?

Let’s discuss.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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56 Responses to Ebook Pricing Revisited – How much is too much?

  1. Philippa says:

    As an author that sells her eBook for $29.00 (280 pages – non-fiction) I have to say here – a lot of these comments are around the cost of the eBook, but what about the years of knowledge (for non-fiction) and the time it takes an author to write and deliver the book. That, and the information provided, can be invaluable and why should an author not be valued for that just because eBooks cost less to produce. I really feel $1-$7 is an insult to the author, no matter how much it costs them to make the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lynn Morris says:

    I actually have read more ebooks by indi authors than well known authors BECAUSE they cost so much less. What publishers don’t seem to care about is that many people read ebooks because it’s the only way they can read a book. Ereaders and book apps have settings that allow users to set background, font type and font size. This allows visually impaired and dyslexic readers to be able to make a book easier to read. And ebooks are also easier to read for those with certain physical disabilities. Since many disabled people only get disability income (like SSDI), they cannot afford most ebook prices. The most I can afford to spend is $6 per book. Since I can’t qualify for a credit card and most stores in my area don’t carry Amazon gift cards, I have to buy my ebooks through Apple (since Apple gift cards are in every store I shop at). I make a want to read list and check it daily. I only buy the book when the price drops to $5 or less. The prices of some ebooks that have been out for years are still over $9 (like Twilight)! That is just outrageous. And what makes it worse is that many of the overpriced ebooks are geared towards children. Harper Collins’ children’s ebooks are some of the most expensive! I signed up with a service that sends a list of free and reduced priced ebooks each day to my email. And I always check the daily discounted books on the Apple app. I rarely pay full price for an ebook simply because I can’t afford it. I have been slowly replacing hard copy books I read over and over again with the ebook version. But it’s taking awhile, since I refuse to pay more for an ebook that I paid for the hard copy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lynn thanks so much for your thoughts on eBook pricing. You covered some valid points that I omitted in my post. I have eye issues and ONLY read eBooks at this point in my life. Many others have disabilities that preclude them from reading print books and you are correct – they often have lower incomes due to their disabilities. Thanks for bringing this point to my followers.


  3. Mike says:

    And yet every day we happily pay $5 for a coffee, which brings us 5 minutes of enjoyment compared to 8-9 hours for a book. We are interesting creatures.
    Thanks for all your contributions though. I’m about to release my debut novel ENTROPY and agonizing on what pricing to use in each country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very valid point you’ve made there Mike. I guess it is just the fact that an eBook is not as ‘tangible’ as a paper book. Also the vast discrepancy in pricing with some eBooks going for $ .99 while others go for $29.99 that seems peculiar. Although there are high initial costs, the replicating of the book costs far more than the replicating of the eBook.


      • Mike says:

        I thought about it along the lines of what my story is worth regardless of the media used to deliver it, who bought it, and in what currency. Let’s say it’s worth AUD $5 (or a cup of coffee for me in Australia).
        So I set up a spreadsheet (as any good Engineer would) to work out pricing for my debut novel ENTROPY at 373 pages. It turns out that accounting for KDP printing, royalties and extras, tax, current exchange rates, etc, I would have to sell my book at the following prices just to pay for a cup of coffee.
        AUD $8.20 CAD $7.40 GBP 4.75 USD $5.80
        AUD $25.40 CAD $19.30 GBP 12.20 USD $14.75
        Paperback KDP Extended Distribution
        AUD $29.50 CAD $23.00 GBP 14.55 USD $17.60
        AUD $30.67 CAD $23.00 GBP 16.75 USD $21.30
        Hardback KDP Extended Distribution
        AUD $34.85 CAD $26.80 GBP 19.15 USD $24.20
        While I agree $29.99 is excessive, the ebook is the only way for an author to make more than a cup of coffee from their story because the hardcopy prices above are close to what I already see in the bookshops (and they want their margin too). And as Maggie says in the previous post, my $5 coffee is already gone in upfront production costs. Also, if I were living in UK or USA then my AUD$5 is not enough to cover that cup coffee.
        Even though it always comes down to what the customer is prepared to pay, their reading time is much more valuable that $$. So the onus is on me to make sure I’ve written a good story and ensure the reader feels like they’ve gotten value for their time and money.
        Just my thoughts.
        Please continue to support indie writers 😎
        ENTROPY is coming soon …


  4. maggielynch54 says:

    I agree the prices are too high. However, when you say producing a digital file costs nothing, you are forgetting all the other costs. The publisher still had to pay for contracting, cover design, editing, formatting, marketing, and all the day-to-day back and forth with authors and/or agents. This costs exists whether it was a print book or an ebook.

    Now consider that in the past publishers priced ebooks the same as print books because they made more money on print books. The author made less, but the publisher made more. Then, particularly with the pandemic and supply chain issues, ebooks became the dominant book format of choice for most readers. This meant fewer print books were being sold (which is where the publisher makes the most money). So now they are paying out more in royalties to authors and yet they still have to cover all those initial costs without print books.

    Recently, I’ve seen an interesting change with some big publishers (not with their bestselling authors but with most other titles). That is that they price the ebooks very high in the first year (as much as print books or even more) because they don’t want Amazon to be the dominant seller of ebooks. Amazon has a reputation for downward pressure on pricing that has made it very difficult for publishers. However, after the first year, they then begin lowering prices because they figure that it is likely all the truly loyal fans have already bought that book. AND the publisher is unlikely to put too much more marketing into a book more than a year old.

    The problem now, at least for indie authors, is that those same publishers are running some special promotions (not 99 cents but definitely something like $4.99 or $5.99 on an ebook) for time-limited periods to keep their backlist alive. This has squeezed out all but bestselling indie authors for the chance to get good promos unless they offer it for free or 99 cents–which means they aren’t making any money.

    Selling books is a small percentage game. Even large publishers make small profits on the majority of their books. They count on their well-known, bestselling authors and celebrity books to make all the money and cover everything else. It has always been this way but is even more so now. The question is, why do readers always look only for the few bestsellers to read instead of branching out to midlist authors–either traditionally published or indie published? How do midlist authors with good books but no significant money to invest in marketing find good readers? Now that is at least a long post or an entire book on its own. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I gave authors the benefit of the doubt if they wrote a book with say, 500 pages because that’s a lot of work simply writing it but $26.00 is ridiculous. The most I’ve paid was about $5.00.

    My birthday is on Monday. 🙂


  6. Carla says:

    First, Happy Belated Birthday, Lynne. I am shocked. I would never pay that much for an ebook. My sweet spot is around 5.99 (US). If I really want to read a book and it is over 10.00, I will get it at the library rather than purchase it. I read almost all ebooks as well or listen to the audiobook. Just to muddy the waters, most of the audiobooks I buy are15 to 20 dollars and there is a lot more to them.


  7. emmareadstoomuch says:

    holy moley – this is so out of hand! when i was in college i took a publishing class in which we learned that ebooks should always be priced lower than hard copies, often significantly, because consumers will pay more for what they view as an actual object versus an intangible. it’s crazy that these prices have gotten so high!


  8. nsfordwriter says:

    Interestingly when ebooks first became available, they were about the same price as the print book, but as their popularity has increased and more people acquired devices to read them on, prices have come down. It must vary between regions, but in the UK they are usually between £0.99 – £5.99.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, that’s insane and I don’t remember anything like that where I shop. Most all the ebooks I get are free. I’ve been known to pay $2.99 or a max of $3.99 however for a favorite author who refuses to put it on a free format. I thought ebook pricing was better in terms of net than printed books, but I always wonder what behind the scenes costs have driven the pricing higher. Between time and costs, the publisher apparently feels the necessity for the extra price. Indie published books may also take into consideration the research and length of time to write, costs of editing, experts, or covers. For Indie authors, however, I doubt the sweet (sales) spot would extend over $3.99. Personally, I’d rather get more books out there (buzz) at a cheaper sales price than a higher sales price with fewer sales. Happy birthday, Lynne.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the birthday wishes Virginia. I had a lovely day yesterday because my children and grandson came to visit.
      Yes, I agree these prices are insane. It will be a long time (if ever) before I spend this much on an Ebook. These titles are ones I’d really like to read, but they will stay on my Amazon wishlist until I see the price go down considerably.


  10. I’m very puzzled by such high eBook prices as well. I think 9.99 is about as much as an eBook should cost.


  11. Wow that is very expensive!! The most I’ve ever spent on an ebook is $4.99 US I believe and even that is to high for me. For me I feel like $2 or less is ok but for the most part I try to get ebooks for free or for like .99 cents. I can’t justify paying so much for something that you don’t actually have. I don’t understand why some books are so expensive maybe it has to do with how popular the author is or how popular the book is maybe.


  12. I think I’m with most of the above in that £5 would be the maximum for me. As you well know I often prefer to wait for the price to drop when an eBook is on offer. I’m quite happy to use my library service which for eBooks is free (if you’re often prepared for a long wait). As I’ve got more books than time left to read them all, I shouldn’t be buying any, but that is never going to happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Carlissa says:

    I very rarely spend more than $5.00 US for an ebook. I have seen some ebooks with the prices you mentioned, but I refuse to buy them! Fortunately the library is very good where I live, so I just get them from the library. I do have a few ebooks on my wishlist that are too expensive and my library doesn’t have them, so I guess I just won’t ever be able to read them. I do have a few books on my wishlist by UK authors that are not available in the US at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel your pain Carlissa. There are several British books on my want list that I cannot buy here in Canada. Also, I guess if we all band together and refuse to buy the real expensive Ebooks then the publishers will just have to reduce their exorbitant pricing.


  14. WendyW says:

    I think you were reading my mind. It’s infuriating. I prefer eBooks, as you do, and It’s frustrating when an eBook is just as expensive as the print copy. But with the cost of paper, bindings, and shipping, they must be making a lot more money on the ebook.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Katherine says:

    These prices are ridiculous. The most I’d pay for an ebook is about £5. I only buy ebooks if I get an Amazon gift card like I did last Christmas, and even then I prioritize my economy. I bought 5 books for £9.95 last year and the same another year. I search for ebooks that cost around £2-5 maximum even with a gift card as I want to get as many for my money as possible. I was pleased that a book I didn’t get on the NetGalley blog tour for was priced at 99p.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Katherine says:

    Two Kindle ebooks I want to buy cost £10 each: Wish You Were Here and Mad Honey, both by Jodi Picoult. True, Mad Honey is a pre-order but Wish You Were Here is not. I review a lot of NetGalley books. I wasn’t able to get Wish You Were Here on NetGalley and I am hoping Mad Honey will be there. It annoys me that other books I reviewed the ARC of are priced at 99p or just over, and many of them were great and some were by well-known authors. I have a lot of book drafts myself and so know what it takes to produce a book. I sympathize with authors who publish something only to find it’s priced low on Amazon. I am as yet unpublished, but on the flip side books may sell more if they are cheaper. I think you can’t put a price on an author’s work as you don’t know them/ their creative process personally and what they have been through to write the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow those are some steep prices! Personally I think that ebooks should be much cheaper, since they’re much cheaper to produce and distribute. The price should reflect that!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. James McEwan says:

    I believe the price of e-books on Amazon is set by the publisher.
    In UK the Value Added Tax (VAT) on e-books was removed a few years ago. This, in my opinion, did not change the price of e-books, instead it removed an income source for the Government.

    In UK, I observed that e-books sold by publisher ask a higher price for well loved/known authors.
    The publisher sets their sales price based on their costs and profits.
    Bloomsbury for instance (open source) had a revenue of £100.7 million and a profit of £12.9 million.

    In Canada, apparently the book market is smaller plus there is a GST/HST on digital products, which included e-Books. If you purchase through Amazon, the price is set by the publisher of the book and the GST is collected by Amazon and paid to the Gov.

    In the US it is more complex since each US State determines their tax level on digital products.

    To answer your question, it is the publisher who sets the sales price.

    My e-book Missing is at £1.99 in UK the publisher payment is £1.36.
    Amazon charge £0.05p delivery and take £0.58 for their overheads and service.

    In Canada the e-book cost is $3.44, My Publisher payment is $2.66. (£1.54 depending on rate, but is less with bank charges)
    Amazon charge $0.07 delivery and take $0.71 from which Tax is paid as a percentage of the sales price.

    The paperback is £7.99 in UK -Royalty is 0.91p for publisher/Author.
    Amazon take £3.88 print costs and £3.20 overhead costs.

    Paperback $15.71 – Publisher/Author Royalty is $3.23 (£1.87 minus bank charges)
    Amazon print costs $6.20 and $6.28 to cover overheads and tax.(Tax rules seem complicated, to me, in Canada.

    You may note: although Amazon claim postage over a certain price for your order is free, they have actually have already calculated this in on the sales price. Just my observation.

    So blame the market as seen by the publisher and the tax system for the High Price of books in Canada.

    I am sure some of this information may be disputed, but this is my best interpretation. (Disclaimer).

    Liked by 1 person

    • WOW James! That is eye-opening! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your insider knowledge of how Amazon operates. I’m certain my readers and book-buying friends will appreciate the information as much as I do.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Wow those are ridiculous prices Lynne! I’m very reluctant to pay over £4 for an ebook which is why I go for the 99p deals or get books from the library if I can.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. To answer your question, no ebooks don’t really cost that much extra, and do not even properly belong to the purchaser–they are ‘leased’ and apparently can’t be bequeathed to someone after the owner has passed on. Publishers simply want to make an extra margin on ebooks, because they cost less to produce. Authors do get more royalties in terms of percentage for an ebook, though. A paperback comes between 8-10 per cent whereas an ebook is usually in the range of 25 per cent. Also, Happy Birthday in advance, Lynne! Have a lovely day!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I wish I knew why things were so different. I notice the same with the Kindle shop in the Netherlands, which compared to the UK is insanely expensive. It’s frustrating to see an ebook priced a mere two dollars (or whatever currency) less than a hardback. That makes zero sense. I’ve been meaning to read more digitally because I’m running out of space to put paper books but I refuse to pay those kinds of prices for a digital file.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed Eva. I appreciate your frustration and hope Ebook pricing becomes more reasonable in the Netherlands. Also, it would be great if the prices were the same in different countries. I saw a post of Kindle deals from a UK blogger and got SO excited that a book I want was on for only 99p. When I checked the same Kindle book on Amazon.ca it was $18.99 Grrrrrrr.

      Liked by 1 person

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  24. Carol says:

    Wow! These prices are high! Ideally, I like to find kindle deals at $10 US or under! Around 5 is the sweet spot where I never hesitate to click purchase! 11-15 US causes me to think carefully! I can’t remember when I’ve bought a book over $16 US.

    Liked by 1 person

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