Should eBooks Cost Less Than Paper Books?


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It’s quite common to hear people complaining about the price of ebooks, especially when it comes to popular best selling titles.

It’s not unusual to find an ebook priced higher than its paper book counterpart. For example, the #3 most read book on Amazon Charts right now, The Late Show by Michael Connelly, is priced at $14.99 for the Kindle ebook, but the hardcover is only $12.17.

Some people argue that ebooks should naturally be less expensive because there is no cost to print the book, there’s no cost of paper, and no shipping expenses.

Those are good points but there are some advantages to ebooks as well.

Like the fact that they don’t wear out over time, they don’t take up physical space like paper books, ebooks are more portable and customizable, etc.

So in some ways you can make the argument either way, but one big difference with ebooks is that you can’t resell them or give them away like paper books.

Often times ebooks are priced lower than paper book copies, but newer titles from big publishers can get pretty pricey. Amazon used to push to get Kindle ebooks priced at $9.99 or less, but lots of popular titles from big publishers cost upwards of $14.99 these days.

So what do you think? Should ebooks cost less than paper books?

28 Responses to “Should eBooks Cost Less Than Paper Books?”

  1. If they want to sell it to me, then it has to be cheaper than paper.

  2. I think they should be much cheaper than paper books that’s why I borrow from library most of the time.

  3. They should be cheaper. Lower cost of production. Cannot loan or resell.

    So cheaper on the make side, less value on the finished, same license and editorial costs.

    And somehow we think it should cost the same or more than a physical product?

  4. They should definitely cost less than paper.

  5. I am only getting a license to access the book, which can be revoked, and I am not free to resell/donate like I can with a paper copy. That’s why, with rare exception, I won’t spend more than $5 on an ebook (and most frequently $2 or less).

  6. The high cost is partly advertising. It cost money to get a book out there so people can see it. Without advertising no one will see your book and buy it and none would be sold.
    If you think an ebook is too expensive don’t buy it. Buy from an unknown but deserving author in what genre you like, Instead of buying from big publishers who have a whole lot of interest in keeping the costs high.
    I say ebooks should cost less for sure.

  7. eBooks should cost less. The same amount of prep work goes in to making it (or less) and there are no physical costs as you say (ink, paper, binding, etc). Plus, I can’t share it, trade it, loan it, or re-sell it (or at least not easily). If I don’t like the book, I’m completely stuck with it.

    If a hardcover or paperback is cheaper on Amazon, I’m buying the physical copy. If it’s a great book, I can share it or loan it out, and hopefully get friends hooked on a particular author. I can trade a book at my local used book store, or even sell it to them (for pennies on the dollar), but I can at least use it in some way to get another book.

    When I see higher ebook prices my first thought is “greed” by the publishers.

  8. Considering the cost of paper and printing, the negligible residual valve and the lack of disposal cost logic suggests that ebooks should be cheaper. But, ask a lawyer or free market economist and you’ll be told that the publisher can charge what he or she pleases. I personally wait until the price is to my liking or I don’t buy at all. Fortunately, my taxes support two good libraries nearby and I can check out best sellers if I don’t like their price.

  9. I thing for me the value is the cost of paper books at Costco. I can buy (sometimes eventually) any paperbook for basically the cost of shipping… $4.00.

    What frosts me is something like: John D. McDonald’s Deep Blue Goodbye (Travis McGee), printed in 1964, Kindle for $11.99. Even a very basic course in Economics would tell them they could make a lot more money for selling them for $2.99 or so.

    I have all these in hardcover or paperback for a total of maybe $50.

  10. Probably they could be cheaper. I won’t buy an ebook if it’s more than $9.99 (a price that’s also annoying since any intelligent person realizes it’s $10). The most annoying aspect of expensive ebooks is that you can’t lend them to a friend. I tried and the rules are ridiculous. If it’s a book I paid money for it should be MINE with the right to lend it to anyone for as long as they want. So yes, they should be cheaper.

  11. Yes they should be cheaper . I do not buy a book if it is more than 5€.I live in France and do not have access to library’s. We have just tried to give our paper books away and no one wants them

  12. Yes, they should be cheaper. Some of my favorite authors have ebooks coming out that are listed at $19. As much as I love and enjoy the series I refuse to pay that much. I usually price check between Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Google. Whoever has the cheapest price even by a few pennies gets my business as long as it doesn’t go over the $9.99-$12.99 cap I have set for myself. I refuse to raise the amounts of that cap.

  13. Rarely do I buy an e-book over $3.99. Mostly I stick to $1.99 and below. There are other alternatives to buying high priced e-books. Local library is an example and other subscription sites

  14. they should also sell them both in bundle, verso books is doing this. You buy the paper book and you get an ebook as well

  15. I remember this discussion a while back. The difference is that the $14.99 ebook also carries a $14.99 MSRP on the print book (or higher), but Amazon buys in bulk, and once they have their palettes of books, they can set the price as they see fit. If they are “losing money”, it’s Amazon’s money to lose, but the publisher already got the payment they negotiated for. So it doesn’t really have anything to do with the cost of materials but the MSRP as set by the publisher and how much Amazon is willing to shave off of the print copy to get the sale. Consider, also, that the publisher has to pay Amazon something like 30% of the selling price when it’s sold. So it’s not like the publisher is getting that whole $14.99. Logically, it seems like ebooks should be cheaper because of the cheaper costs associated with producing it, but that’s just not apparently how they set book prices.

  16. They should be less expensive. I want the authors to receive fair compensation for their books, but i seldom re-read a book, and it’s VERY rare I’d buy a hard copy book for $15. Or even $10. I generally look for ebooks in the library. Since I can’t loan then or give them away, I don’t want to pay $15 for a book I’ll read once and can’t share.

  17. It is obvious much cheaper for ebook, how does free economy correct for this?

  18. It’s just plain old profiteering.
    The only way to stop it, is to boycott these large publishers.

  19. In the age of Amazon Prime, when beautiful ink-and-paper copies of any book on the planet are just a couple days away, you better make the ebook cheaper or it simply isn’t going to sell that much. People still like filling shelves and passing books along to friends.

  20. When you look at the so-called terms, they are not really selling. They are renting. And from the “seller” point of view, they are doing it to one single thing over and over, in contrast with hardcopy products that they have to physically multiply in order to sell more of them. This is why ebooks should be way cheaper, near-free. This goes for all software.

  21. e-book should ALWAYS be the same or less than a paper book. If I ever want a book and the e-book version is more expensive than the paper book version, then I will always buy the paper book.

    Also, I tend to buy a lot of used paper books. Save a ton of money! 🙂 One of the advantages of paper books is you can buy used.

    Also — public domain e-books. Free!!

    …and like someone already said — the library, both paper and e-books.

  22. What a lot of people don’t realize is that publishers sell e-bestsellers to libraries at ridiculously high prices. For example, Michael Connelly’s “The Late Show?” $84.00 to a library through Overdrive. You’d think publishers would be a bit more friendly to libraries.

    • Every company rips off the government so why not publishers of ebooks as well?

      I’m going to guess that publishers will claim piracy as justification for the high ebook prices. I would love to see accurate market research numbers to see if this is the case. But then, it’s not like everyone who reads a particular print book bought that said book. People borrow, buy it used, get it from hand me downs, etc. All of these can’t be done with ebooks as many have mentioned. Ebook prices are set by publishers, and it’s an not due to market forces. There’s no real competition in the industry, so the price is just what the publishers say it should be. It’s an industry that screams to be overhauled. Not sure why we need publishers anymore. Direct from authors should and may be the way of the future no?

      • Diana, [i]What a lot of people don’t realize is that publishers sell e-bestsellers to libraries at ridiculously high prices.[/i]

        Plus libraries have to pay royalties for each lending of an e-book, something they don’t have to do with paperbooks. What I don’t get is how libraries ever came to accept these terms. Did they not notice anything fishy?

  23. The cost of a paper book reflects the fact that more than one person is likely to read that paper book. It will be read, and then passed on in some way, and passed on again. If you assume a paper book is read by 3 people then that $15 price really reflects 3 people paying $5 (even though all the money came from one of the people.) Since ebooks can’t be legally shared it only makes sense that they would cost less.

  24. Yes, they should. And the reason is that they “cost” less in production, but the fact tharntjey are “modern times’ content”

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