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eBooks ~ Which publishers are doing it right


June 3, 2010

The other evening, while I was feeding my contemporary fix, I was pleasantly surprised.Why? Well I had just discovered Christie Ridgway and I was searching for some  books on her backlist. Currently she writes contemporary single titles for Berkley Publishing (Penguin Group), but as I discovered she used to write them for Avon Books. So now I’m forced to decide which books should I start with, her older stuff from Avon or her newer stuff from Berkley. Since I was a bit anxious to get started reading more of her books and I own a handy dandy Sony eReader, it boiled down to this: which books could I get cheaper as an ebook.

From experience, I know that HarperCollins no longer discounts their ebooks. They used to. I remember buying three of Lisa Kleypas’s ebooks from her Wallflower series from the HarperCollins’ eBook Store at 20% off retail price. Now, if I wanted to buy any of Chritie’s books, I was going to have to fork over full retail.  On the other hand, over at Penguin Putnam, Christie’s ebooks were discounted one dollar. I bought three of her ebooks at Penguin Putnam.

This, of course, moved Penguin Putnam Group up a notch in my book. I really find it very difficult to pay the same amount for an ebook that I would for a physical book. As much as I love my Sony eReader, one of things I miss most when I’m reading a book on it is skimming the way you do with physical books. Also, ebooks get lost in the plethora of other books I have on the eReader. Because I can’t ‘see’ them crowding my bookshelf.  It’s kind of like out of sight out of mind. I have to be purposely looking for that ebook in order for me to remember I have it waiting to be read. You see I can’t really do a TBR pile on my eReader. It just doesn’t compute.

What I do love is the convenience of being able to download it the second I decide I want to read the book. That’s all joy and bliss. But again, the price has to be right and unless I’m desperate to read the book, I won’t pay the same price as I would the physical book.

Needless to say, I was curious about which publishers discounted their ebooks and which did not. Here’s what I found.

Publishers Who Discount their eBooks:

Sourcebooks (approx 40 -48% off retail)
Dorchester (approx 30% off retail)
Kensington (approx 20% off retail)
Medallion Press (approx 20% off retail)
Random House - Ballantine, Bantam Dell (approx 20% off retail after the first week of release)
Harlequin (approx 19% off retail)
Penguin Putnam (discount is between 12-14% off retail)

Publishers Who DO NOT Discount their eBooks:

HarperCollins
Grand Central
Simon and Schuster (Pocket Books)

4:05pm: Correction made regarding Random House. Does discount after 1st week of release.  Although, when I looked last night at the 5/25 releases, the ebooks were still full retail price. Today, there is a 20% discount.

As I said above, I will very rarely buy an ebook that is not discounted. Like many things, book shopping can be a spur of the moment purchase for me. If the ebook price is right and the books sounds interesting, I’ll buy. If the ebook is not discounted will I make the effort to go out and get the physical book. Usually not. That’s what spur of the moment buying is all about. By the time I go back to the book store, there are a list of other, newer books clamoring for my attention and I forget about the ebook that sounded interesting enough to buy, just not a full retail price.

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26 Comments

  1. Thank-you so much for this great info. I just bought an ereader and I have been shopping around trying to find the best prices.

    Thanks, again!

  2. the problem I face with ebooks is that I read them on my palm pre, not on an actual reader (i Wish!). I’m still hoping to get one soon. Thanks for the info since I do buy them when I stumble across ones I really want that are cheap.

  3. Thanks for the good info. This has been one of my concerns while I am investigating e-readers, I just can’t pay that much when I don’t have the actual book in my hand.

  4. I don’t have an ereader, but a reason for me to get one would be lower price books. If a ebook becomes the same price as a regular book then i’d rather get the actual book. Nothing beats the feeling of an actual book in your hands.

  5. Even a small discount on books (physical or ebooks) would sell more books. It makes senses for a publisher to do so.

  6. Keep in mind that most publishers DO NOT want to be the retailers. They aren’t trying to price competitively – they’d rather you bought their books from an outside retailer or bookstore.

    There are of course some exceptions – I’m currently working at Harlequin and we have an extensive store attached. But for most publishers, while they do allow you to buy books directly, they aren’t trying to compete with retailers.

  7. I answered “yes” to the 2nd question “Would you or do you buy ebooks at full retail price of physical book?” but I would qualify that by saying that I’d definitely pay the full mass market paperback price. But trade paperbacks with ebook versions that are priced $9.99 and up, I’m a little more hesitant to buy. (Plus these are books I feel better about displaying on my shelves than mass market paperbacks, I have to admit)

  8. I don’t have an ereader (yet!). I do want one so that I can read ebooks that will never be released on print. I’d only by ebooks, though, if they were at a discounted price. Why pay for the print price when you don’t get to hold an actual book in your hands?!

  9. @Emma Cunningham

    Hi Emma, my findings do include outside retailers. None of the outside retailers discounted the books by the publishing houses I indicate above. I’m assuming since they do discount other publishers, that decision rest in the publisher’s hand and not the retailers.

  10. The e-book pricing structure is an intense, on-going debate. I look at it this way, I am paying for the right to access someone’s creativity, so if the e-book is priced the same as its paper counterpart it won’t stop me from purchasing.

  11. BTW, Kris Kennedy’s, “The Irish Warrior” is FREE right now for the Kindle & nook!!
    After the fabulous review here, I scadoodled over to buy and to my shock found out it was $0.00!

  12. This has been a huge, on-going debate for the past few months as 5 of the 6 major publishers forced Amazon and other online retailers to adopt the agency pricing model. Prior to this, Amazon was discounting most of their ebooks by at least a dollar or two if they were out in paperback and by considerably more if they were hardback. The agency model no longer allows the retailer to set their own price. Instead, the publisher sets the price for ebooks and retailers are not allowed to discount it. The publishers are doing this to protect their hardback sales, and to discourage ebook sales for as long as possible (basically, they are acting just like the music industry did when faced with the MP3 market).

    As a Kindle owner, I can tell you that I never pay full price for an ebook if I can avoid it. If I have to pay full price, I’d rather buy the paperback. Why should I pay full price when I can’t resell or otherwise give away my ebook copy? In effect, I’m just renting it, so it doesn’t have as much value to me.

  13. @JenM

    You raise a very good point. You can’t give away or lend your ebooks. Which is another reason I will not pay full price for an ebook.

    I think though, that’s what the publishers would rather you do, buy the print books. Where they get hurt, IMO, is when the price is as equal a motivating factor to buying the ebook as the author and story. Like I said above, when I find a book that sounds interesting that I want to read–and I want to read it now–I will buy an ebook. If it’s full price, I won’t buy it nor will I buy the physical book.

    This, I think, will be more felt when it comes to backlist books that aren’t on the shelf anymore. That’s when readers will go to eBay or a second hand book store rather than purchasing the ebook at full retail.

  14. Bev you hit it right on the head. I have a kindle which I love. But there is some disadvantages to it. For me, I love a physical book. I love holding it and flipping through the pages. I have ritual of sorts where I read the back of the book, study the cover and just hold the book. Can’t do that on my kindle. Sometimes I like to re-read a scene and its a pain to bookmark something. Yes I can do it but there are times when I absolutely don’t know that I want to re-read a scene. So when I finish a book and say that scene stuck out, I am now struggling to find it on the ereader. Then there is the out of sight out of mind thing that you mention. I have way more books on my kindle than I actually read. I refuse to pay the same price for an ebook as I would for a physical. I would prefer the physical if that’s the case.

  15. I work for a tech company that does create & sell software. While it isn’t books or other retail items (strictly business process software sold business to business) all of our sales are electronic/downloads, we provide no physical copies of the software. The advantage of doing this is you do not have the cost of reproducing it for each sale. Since I’m not getting a physical book (which I prefer for various stated reasons) I prefer to then have a portion of that reduced production cost passed to me instead. It does’t have to be huge (I don’t want to effect the author income afterall) but something. That being said, I haven’t bought an e-reader or been too seriously tempted to so yet either. What little e-reading I do is on my computer of books borrowed from the library system or the occasional cheap or freebie.

  16. Interesting post today. I have an assortment of ebooks on my computer that, like my print books, are sitting there waiting their turn to be read. Almost all of the ebooks I have now I won in various contests and I purchased only a small few. While I’ve debated about investing in an ereader of some sort, I hesitate to do so because of the 1000+ print books I have on my TBR shelves waiting to be read. I can’t substantiate purchasing an ereader beyond my computer, when most of what I want to read is on my bookcases right behind me, right now.

    That said, about half of the books I have on my TBR shelves were received through the book trading websites such as Paperback Swap. I do buy certain books by certain authors, and will continue to buy new, but not as many as I used to. I recall that my book buying habits changed when I retired 4 years ago….fixed income tends to change buying habits. I don’t feel bad about buying and trading used books. I know no royalties are paid but at least the author got the initial royalty from the original sale. It’s not like the thousands of revenue dollars lost because of pirated ebooks.

  17. Wow! Fascinating discussion Bev. That being said…..I must be the only outcast when it comes to the e-reader. I will learn everything I can about them, but in truth, I will never be interested in owning one. I not only purchase paperbacks, trades, and hardbound, but rare and out of print books. Nothing can compare to the feel, smell and anticipation of a *real* book in my hands….imho.

    This is an ongoing debate not only at my store, but with family and friends. I know my comments are outside of the original query, yet….I just wanted to toss my .02 in. Thanks!

  18. I agree with most you guys about paying full price for ebooks.

  19. Fab post and discussion, Beverley. Very useful information. There’s been lots of discussion lately and I’m glad for your helpful research. I’ve been nudged to check out Sourcebooks – guess I’ll do that soon.

    Like you, I only really buy ebooks for my Sony Reader when they are cheaper than prints. Otherwise, I still prefer ‘old-fashioned’ books, even though my bookshelves are creaking!

  20. I don’t really read e-books because I don’t have an e-book reader and part of the reason I like reading so much is because I can do it anywhere. I can curl up on the couch, read in the car (as a passenger, silly), read in bed, read on breaks at work, read at my boyfriend’s house… Oh, and I don’t have a laptop. So, until I get an e-book reader or a laptop, I’ll probably stick with paperback.

  21. Thanks for the info regarding discounts. I don’t have an ereader, but I do read them on computer. I’ve only bought ebooks when they’re on sale.

  22. Very interesting discussion – don’t leave out the vast number of publishers who release in e-book format first and send only selected books to print. You can most easily access them at http://www.fictionwise.com and the prices are almost never as much as similar length books would be in print format. For more info on the e-pub industry check out http://epicauthors.com, the Electronically Published Internet Connection for authors and publishers in the e-book world.

  23. I’m a bargain hunter and that goes for books/e-books too!

  24. I have not yet read or purchased an ebook. I can see the advantages of it, especially if you travel alot and you want to bring a bunch of books with you, but I do love the look and feel of physical books. I guess it’s a little like when LP’s went to CD’s.
    Also, I would never pay the full price for an ebook.

  25. Love the post today. If you don’t mind I’m emailing it to a couple of friends who have ereaders. I’m also going to save this as my favorite.

    I would never pay full-price for a ebook or book.

  26. Amazon frequently has a few no cost ebooks of the day. I’ve received a few that way.

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