Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Flexible Pricing Model for Books?

There was an interesting little item in Publishers Weekly yesterday. It referred to an article in the UK's The Bookseller on Tuesday:
Le BĂ©lial Editions, a French sci-fi specialist, is to launch an e-book platform on 1st September. The four-year-old independent will sell all its books at between nine and 11 euros, about half the price of the print versions, according to c.e.o. Olivier Girard, and will offer buyers the possibility of paying more out of solidarity with the author or publisher.
At present levels, one U.S. dollar equals .7763 euros so ten euros for the e-book would be $7.76 with the print version costing around $15.50.

The article goes on to say that, if the reader wanted to buy both the print and e-book versions, an additional two euros ($1.55) would be charged. There will be no digital rights management (DRM) or DRM fees. The reader can download the book again if needed.

As I thought about that article, I realized how customer-friendly this approach is, and how readily I would go along with a flexible pricing model.

I started to say I'm speaking here as a reader, not as an author, but realized that I might be able to live with this model as a writer, too. The article indicates the publisher pays a 30% royalty. If the royalty were in the 33% to 35% range, I could live with this model as a writer, too.

When I think about reading, authors fall into three categories for me: (1) unknown writers that I test-drive; (2) writers I've read before and would like to read again; and (3) authors I love and for whom I eagerly await the next book.

For unknown or debut writers, a $7.75 e-book would be perfect. That price point is close to what I pay now at a used book store. I generally go to used book stores when I'm looking for something new or different. Even if the book is awful, at that price, I don't mind taking the risk.

There are any number of authors who fall into my second tier. Usually they have two or three books under their belt and I'm eager to help support their careers. I'd be happy to pay $10 or $11 for a DRM-free e-book I could download to several devices (or loan to my best friend).

And--finally--for my favorite authors, in the short term, I'm still going to want both the e-book and the print books. I'd willingly pay $17 to have both an e-book and a trade paper version. I say "in the short term" because I can see a day when I'll walk away from physical copies of books. Probably not until e-readers are more flexible and user-friendly than they are now, but I can see that day coming.

I understand that publishers cannot count on the good will of readers and wouldn't mind if this flexible pricing were set in stone with book sales being the indicator of when the pricing changes. By that I mean, when an author reaches critical mass in terms of sales, the pricing changes.

I'm interested to know how other readers would feel about a flexible pricing model.

Go here to read the entire article in The Bookseller.

By the way, the publisher indicates that "Anglo-Saxon agents" charge too much so this model will only be available for French books. [grin]

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