Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Do Books Cost too Much

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords thinks so (HuffPo):
Most books are too expensive. Compared to lower cost alternative media sources, books are becoming niche consumables like caviar. The high cost of books jeopardizes not only the future of books, but the future of the book publishing industry. Unless authors, publishers and booksellers cooperate to bring down the cost of books, book publishing faces a painful decline, much as we're now witnessing with newspaper and magazine publishing. Here in the U.S., most consumers already think twice before shelling out $7.50, $15.00 or $30.00 for a good read. If a book at the current prices represents a big purchase for citizens of the world's most affluent economy, imagine the cost burden for the vast majority of the world's literate people.
For some reason books seem hold a special spot when it comes to pricing theory – you don’t seem to hear too many people telling Mercedes they should lower their car prices to a $1,000. It is very easy to suggest that books cost too much but there’s little evidence that demand is elastic. I’m all for lower prices but there are only so many readers – to expand the readership requires publishing content they want not lowering the prices on the same stuff that is churned out by today’s publishing companies. If we want to increase demand it is the product that should be addressed not simply the pricing. If a $4.00 book is still as crappy as a $35 book the reader is still not coming back; building reader loyalty through the delivery of products they embrace and aren’t disappointed by is what will support growth. Pricing is an element but it is not at all the panacea.

1 comment:

Marco Ferrario said...

The difference between a book and a Mercedes is that since a few years you can buy digital books and publishers can reduce significantly their costs, while Mercedes can't.

Reducing books' price by two doesn't mean double the number of copies sold; but I'm sure that heavy readers would buy more niche titles (even if they're not reading them) and more light readers would buy mainstream titles. If (new and old) publishers can save the present margins through a cost reduction, a broader market size seems to be the most reasonable strategic goal.