eBooks: What are Consumers Willing to Pay?

This week is Read an E-Book Week. The purpose of this event is to raise awareness for and promote ebooks.

Those of us in involved in the publishing world have been hearing a whole lot about ebooks lately. Publishers and retailers are having skirmishes over the pricing of ebooks. The number of ebook reading devices is escalating. The competition over ebook readers’ dollars is growing.

The popularity of ebooks is definitely rising. Just since Christmas, I have encountered more people reading on a Kindle than I had in the all of the previous year (2009).

A recent study by BISG showed that the number one reason people purchase an ebook is affordability, followed by the ease of download, the instant access to books, and the portability of an ebook.

Affordability is a big issue. People expect to pay less, sometimes much less, for an ebook.

Smashwords, the largest publisher and distributor of independent ebooks, offers various pricing options. One of the options they make available is “Reader Sets the Price.” With this option, the customer pays whatever they want for an ebook. The customer can take the ebook for free or select a price of $0.99 or higher.

Recently, Smashwords looked at a sample of 353 purchases for books where the customer was allowed to set the price. They found that of the 353 customers, 299 took the ebook for free and 54 paid money for the ebook. The average price the customer chose to pay for one of these ebooks was $3.20.

Interestingly, when Smashwords computed the average yield per book purchased, including those who took the books for free, the yield per book averaged out to each download grossing $0.49.

So, if you are an author or a publisher of ebooks, what this means is that you won’t be getting rich off of your ebook sales anytime soon. Price your ebooks too high and no one will buy them. Price them too low and you will have more buyers, but less revenue.

Your best bet is to find the sweet selling price that nets you the best yield of both buying customers and dollars.

Now go read another author’s ebook for Read an Ebook Week. A great list of free and discounted ebooks can be found on the sponsor’s website.

[Note: to generate your interest, I pointed out that there were free and discounted (a.k.a. cheap) ebooks on the list.]

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What is Web 3.0?

I have been hearing a lot about Web 3.0 lately. I feel like I just got used to Web 2.0, the new interactive, social web. Now we are on to Web 3.0.

Just what is Web 3.0?

I found a video clip on YouTube of Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, explaining Web 3.0. Here is a paraphrase of what he says.

Web 3.0 is a new wave of Internet activity. Rather than applications (think software) built on the existing system, applications will now be pieced together and be:

  • Relatively small
  • Have their data in the cloud
  • Able to run on any device – PC and Mobile platforms
  • Very fast
  • Very customizable
  • Distributed by viral means, they will not be purchased at a store

There you have it: the new Web 3.0.

But wait, what exactly did Eric Schmidt say? What does this mean? If you don’t speak the language of computer programming, don’t despair. I will attempt to translate for you.

Web 3.0 is a new evolution in both computer and Internet use. It is a migration from the old standard of programs and data being stored on your personal computer’s hard drive to everything happening on the Internet.

Need to type a document? You no longer have to go out and purchase a copy of Microsoft Word. You can now find a place on the web to create your document and store it.

Want to save pictures from your digital camera? Just upload them to the web on a site such as Flickr. You can view your stored pictures anytime. No need to have them on a hard drive on your personal computer. With your pictures on the web, you can view them from your smart phone, your iPad, or your laptop.

With Web 3.0 there will no longer be a need for hard drives and packaged software programs. The Internet will become your hard drive and have all the software you need to access to create and store information. Think about all the applications already available for the iPhone.

Web 3.0 will not nullify Web 2.0. The interactive, social piece of the Internet will remain. The change is everything will be done on the Internet. We will all be plugged in. Maybe The Matrix will actually become a reality or just maybe Jesus Christ will return first.

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Is Your “Buy” Button in Jeopardy?

Back on February 2, 2010, I gave my comments on a skirmish that happened between Macmillan (a large publishing house) and Amazon.com. In this battle over the price of ebooks, both entities were wrestling for control.

Amazon’s strategy in the skirmish was to remove all “buy” buttons from all books published by Macmillan listed on their website. This is not a new tactic for Amazon.com. In 2008, Amazon used the same tactic when they wanted to force all sellers of POD (print-on-demand) titles to use their own POD service, BookSurge (now CreateSpace), in order to be able to sell their titles directly on Amazon.com.

After Amazon removed all “buy” buttons from POD books in an attempt to send business to themselves, Booklocker (a large POD press) brought an antitrust class action lawsuit against Amazon over this issue. The lawsuit was recently settled and all Booklocker books’ “buy” buttons were restored.

Booklocker’s goal with their lawsuit was to show Amazon that “covert efforts aimed at forcing POD publishers to pay Amazon (via CreateSpace) to print their books is not the way responsible corporate citizens should act.”

The Authors Guild, an organization that advocates for effective copyright, fair contracts, and free expression for published authors, feels that Amazon’s covert actions happen more than they should. Since Amazon.com is the top seller of books on the Internet, the Authors Guild felt they should help authors with this issue. Toward this end, the organization has launched a new website that allows authors and publishers to monitor their books on Amazon.com and receive notification when a status change (such as a “buy” button removed) happens to one of your books.

This new website is www.whomovedmybuybutton.com.

If you have a concern about the ongoing status of your books on Amazon.com, I urge you to sign up and let this site monitor your books’ status for you.

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Celebrate Small Presses

March has been designated Small Press Month. It is officially listed in Chase’s calendar of events.

This nationwide promotion is intended to highlight the valuable work produced by independent publishers. Small Press Month is an effort to showcase the diverse and unique works produced in the independent spirit of smaller publishers.

Now in its fourteenth year, Small Press Month is co-sponsored by The New York Center for Independent Publishing, The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, and Independent Book Publishers Association.

Sadly, the co-sponsors have dropped the ball this year. As of the end of February 2010, the Small Press Month website had not been updated for 2010. When I emailed IBPA about this, the answer I received was that the sponsors were “busy” and had not gotten around to it yet.

Let me get this straight: the sponsors, at least two of whom exist to serve and strengthen small presses, are too “busy” to actually help small presses promote themselves this month. Busy with what? Helping small presses in a more important way?

One of the things that the Small Press Month website offered in the past was free posters that small publishers (and authors published by small presses) could order and take around to their local libraries, schools, and bookstores. Those entities willing to hang the posters would most likely also be willing to host an event that featured a book or an author by a small press during the month of March. No posters are being offered this year since the website has not been updated – and the timing is getting late.

As someone who champions small presses and as a small press owner myself, I have decided to take up a little of the slack and am offering my blog readers a button or banner that promotes Small Press Month. Feel free to copy the button or banner (right click on it and copy) from this page (or click here to get the html code to embed it) and post this button on your website and blog to promote Small Press Month.

To celebrate Small Press Month, I am offering a special on my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. Since this book was written for small presses and their authors, I am offering it at a $4.00 discount for the month of March 2010. You can purchase the book for just $19.99 this month by clicking here.

Want to do your part to support small presses this month? I suggest you head on over to http://www.christianpublishers.net/10votes and vote for the Christian Small Press Book of the Year. Honor books by small Christian publishers this month. Vote for the ones that you think are making a difference in people’s lives.

Happy Small Press Month!

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