Justifying the Price of an E-Book

I read an article today which suggested consumers are upset that e-books would be priced anywhere near the price of a hard copy.  Part of the argument was that publishers no longer had to spend money to put a physical product together.

“Consumers see unfairness in publishers pricing of e-books compared to physical books when they subtract out the raw materials, printing, binding, and shipping of e-books. It’s hard to make an argument against such obvious conclusions, and publishers have not done a very good job of making such an argument.”

While I can understand how this might be a person’s initial reaction, we must not lose sight of the fact that a book’s real value has never been in the material with which it was made.  For a publisher to mass produce a book, production costs are admittedly low.  I have never gone to a book store because I really wanted to get my hands on paper and a hard cover, though.  I have; however, purchased books for the unique stories and perspective that they provide.

It is the content that will always be the most valuable piece of a book, whether it is online or not.

Different tools will continue to enhance the way we view and absorb information, but the content will always be the focal point of a publisher’s offering.  Strong content justifies a fair price and the fact that it is now being made available online should not reduce its value.  In fact, search functionality and the transportability of an e-book might even justify a higher price point.

The consumer perception of a book’s value is more likely to be affected by the huge amounts of free content being made available online today.  While some publishers might use this as justification that price decreases are necessary, I’m a strong believer that value should be measured by what a product provides beyond alternative options.  Generally, a publisher can provide a more comprehensive product at greater convenience than information a consumer can find online.

Advancements in technology and online navigation; however, are rapidly changing the way publishers do business.  Going forward, the publishing industry will need to continue to find ways to provide additional value to consumers to ensure they justify current standards for pricing.


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