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Ebook Pricing


I am a sinner. I know I'm a sinner because I've just bought yet another gadget I don't really need, a Sony Reader PRS-350 Pocket Edition ebook reader, largely on the strength of this review.

Sony Reader PRS-350 Pocket Edition I have to declare up front that I still have my doubts about ebooks in general. I like books: their batteries don't run out, they survive being dropped from a height, and you can read them in the bath. They're also very cheap. Ebooks on the other hand fail on all these tests when compared to physical books.

Now it has to be said that they're getting better: the price of the hard- ware is falling fast now; driven, I suspect by Amazon, who must be selling the Kindle pretty much at cost. Especially given they have a captive market (in that the Kindle doesn't support .epub format, which is what pretty much everyone but Amazon use).

Even so list for the PRS-350 PE is around £160 (I got mine on eBay for somewhat less than that) which means it's still more expensive that the Kindle in either incarnation (£105 with WiFi, £149 with free 3G and WiFi).

But it's the price of the software i.e. the books, which is winding me up a bit. Now I know only part of the price of a book is printing, warehousing and distribution but it's surely still more expensive than producing and delivering an ebook, even after having to add VAT to ebook prices. So how can the industry explain the prices its charging?

I'll give you an example. The lovely Shappi Khorsandi, who I follow on Twitter, has a book out called A Beginner's Guide To Acting English so I thought that might be a good first book to buy. I started at Amazon, mainly to get the ISBN but also to see what they were selling it for and then went to some popular sites. Amazon claim that list price for it as a paperback was £7.99, They were selling it for £4.98. For Kindle it was a £4.73 so a massive saving of 25p.

Foyles was even worse selling the paperback for £5.99 and the .epub format ebook for £8.16 making the electronic edition £2.17 dearer.

Waterstones was worse still at £5.29 for the paperback versus £9.59 for the .epub edition.

It was little better at the specialist retailers: ebookshoppe.com1, "the UK's first and largest independent eBook retailer", had it in epub format for £7.75 and it was £6.45 at kobo.

Meanwhile eBooks.com and the Diesel eBook Store, who are two big 'merkin ebook vendors don't even carry it.

So the bottom line is that, on a random sample of one, ebooks in .epub format are more expensive than paperback, significantly more if you compare it with the price of the discounted paperback from Amazon at £4.98. Their kindle price is at least cheaper, if only marginally. Shame I don't like the look of the Kindle, or the way you're tied into their way of doing things.

Anyway I have a wealth of free books to re-discover: not least the Sherlock Holmes books but it also seems that a lot of PG Wodehouse is online (not sure why, I'm sure he should still be in copyright) so that should keep me amused for a while ...

  1. Who should be shot for their use of the word "shoppe".

Tags: books, toys Written 18/10/10

Previous comments about this article:

On 19/10/10 at 8:58am Caroline Heycock wrote:

"shotte", surely

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