Ebooks and pricing

Earlier this week I came across a blog post by Rose Alexander regarding the price of books and was surprised to find myself mentioned in it (thankfully not in a bad way). As the post asked for comments I decided to comment. However what started as a comment became almost a blog post in itself and as I don’t often dip my toe in the water of blogging as opposed to reviewing I’ve decided to reproduce it here (with spelling errors amended).

Hi Rose,

First of all thanks for your kind comments on my blog. As I opened up this blog to read your post on pricing I wasn’t expecting to see myself in the piece, but it was a nice surprise. I’m sorry that the book that caught your eye was on the pricey side and I’m lucky that as a reviewer I can occasionally get to read books that are not immediately affordable. Given the way that e-book pricing is going though I would say you were unlucky.

When I started reviewing via NetGalley I won’t deny that part of the attraction was the accessibility of pre-publication books that I wouldn’t be able to buy on publication due to cost. Even waiting for the paperback is not an affordable option at £7.99 when I average 80-100 books a year. The other option would of course be the library, as my small branch on average only holds about 20% of the books I read then that involves reserving, and very often joining a long waiting list. So outside of my review books I rely on price drops and charity shops (although the latter of course affords the author no income).

As I was always looking for bargain books for myself I set up a Facebook page to share my Kindle ‘finds’. These were quality books (in my opinion) on promotion, either free or costing 99p. That figure was based on the fact that I could either buy it for that price or reserve at the library for £1. So it was the cheapest way for me to access my reading. Does that mean I think that the book (and therefore author’s blood, sweat and tears) is only worth 99p no it doesn’t, it just means that if the publisher decides to offer it at that price I’d be an idiot not to buy it. I should say that because I spend a lot of time doing this you’d be surprised at books that I’ve picked up free.

What I have noticed recently though is far more books being offered on pre-order and even on publication at 99p. These are quality books, written by mainstream authors and I’ve reached the stage where I don’t request these books to review anymore as I’d rather buy it to read at my leisure than get it ‘free’ (I use the word free advisedly, when you spend 4-5 hours reading it, writing a review and posting it across Amazon and social media, it seems more of a fair exchange – even if the review isn’t necessarily favourable).

So the ‘problem’ as I see it has been created by the publishers. Offers and promo pricing has for many books become the norm. If a reader is constantly seeing books offered at 99p they start to expect it. The disconnect between 99p for an e-book and £7.99 for a paperback doesn’t help the balance either. It might be worth adding here that even at 99p, at least the author is getting a percentage which isn’t happening if the book is being bought via a charity shop or borrowed from the library as PLR doesn’t amount to much.

What would be interesting would be to see the split between e-sales and physical sales for a book. If the e-sale is creating the hype (and some e-books are now regularly published before the physical copies) and that interest results in more physical sales then maybe there’s a logic too it that we don’t see. That might at least make the pricing more palatable.

Ultimately the old adage applies, an item is worth whatever someone is prepared to pay for it, but while publishers continue to almost loss lead titles then I can’t see the pendulum swinging the other way. If e-books were offered at a standard £3 or £3.50 it would still represent a 50% saving on the paperback and still only equates to a cup of coffee (though I don’t buy those everyday either). That I feel would be a more equitable compromise for authors while still keeping the price low for the reader.

Anyway this is not so much a comment as an entire blog post in itself so you might see it repeated soon on my own page! Good luck with the book.


  1. An interesting and well-written post. I have on occasion offered some of my books at 0.99, and I might very well do so again as a promotional gimmick. I would never give away my books for free – my experience being that one does not generally put all that much of a value on something you’re getting without paying for it.
    I agree the “problem” is caused by publishers and authors being so eager for downloads/sales that they more or less throw the books at you. I am not sure this in the long term makes commercial sense. As you say, readers suddenly expect to be able to buy good books for very little – which has a negative effect on sales of “fully priced” e-books.
    Complicated stuff this: ultimately, I want readers. But I also need an income – at least enough to pay for all the costs incurred while producing a book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Anna, I don’t think there is an easy answer. But I have noticed it getting more prevalent as you can see by how many books I pick up in the week for 99p. If that was a one off flash price drop and I was lucky to catch it, then good for sale rankings and profile and maybe not too much of a dent in income. However several of this week’s purchases are in the Amazon sale until Nov 8th, that’s a long time to price drop.

      Am I part of the problem by posting price drops – possibly, but I’m approaching it from a readers point of view and seeing a great book at a bargain price and sharing it. I’m not ‘expecting’ all books to be 99p and to be honest I’m surprised at how many are, but to redress the balance I review and support/share on social media for author’s and books that are not on promo and cost an average or above average price.

      What would be interesting would be to have a publishers perspective.


  2. An excellent writer called Linda Gillard talks a lot about publishing and what an author makes from writing. I was surprised to learn that the author only receives around 50p from the sale of a traditionally priced, i.e. £7.99, paperback. She earned more from self-publishing and selling at £1.99. What I’m trying to say is that, particularly for indie authors, being priced quite low isn’t necessarily a bad thing (a previous poster may disagree!). In theory I think books should be a standard price and we should be prepared to pay for the work that has gone into them, but who can resist a bargain if it’s offered to us?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post and I agree. Sometimes new authors (selfpublished) lower the price so they can get to more readers, which is an interesting promo.


  4. An excellent post on an emotive subject- like you, I read a huge number of books and before I started reviewing (or ebooks) had to chose the cheap (charity shop) option or wait for a book to be free at the library- of course I think books are worth more than 99p but most heavy readers can’t afford eight times that price so won’t buy them at all.


    • Thanks for your comments Cleo, I think as heavy readers we are all in agreement. While this post was an unintended by product of a reply elsewhere, it has been something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s been interesting to see the response.

      Liked by 1 person

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