Ebooks and Books – I Love Them Both

by Jo Franklin, Children’s Author

I love books. of course I do, I’m a writer. I am a reader too and my house if full of books. The amount of books in this house causes arguments sometimes as there is not room for them all. I have a clear out occasionally  but it breaks my heart every time. I like to look at them on the shelf. I like to remember how much I enjoyed reading each story. What if I want to read a book again?

Jo Franklin Bookshelf

I do have ebooks too but they are not the same. I miss absorbing the author’s name from the cover every time I pick it up and I miss being able to flick to the end to see what happens when I am not engaged enough to read every word, but am curious enough to find out how the story is resolved. It’s harder to flick through an ebook.

On the other hand I like the fact that my e-reader (an older style kindle) fits neatly into the front pocket of my satchel handbag and it’s good to carry so many books around with me without straining my back. I also love the fact that I can download something instantly instead of having to order it from a bookshop or online.

But the thing that puzzles me is the price of ebooks.

As an author, I am well aware for the need for books to be paid for whether they are in paper or electronic fromat. Ebooks can be a bit cheaper because the publisher doesn’t have to pay for printing, warehousing or distribution costs. It takes the author the same amount of time to write the book and the editor to edit it. With production costs lower, the margins for the publisher are higher. Authors generally get a higher percentage royalty on ebooks but there is a campaign to increase the figure because the Society of Authors don’t think authors currently get a fair share of the higher margin.

Recently I needed to read a book for research purposes. A memoir. Something outside of my usual field but with the same title that I was hoping to use for a new series. I’ll have to come up with a different title but I thought I’d read the book anyway as it might trigger some ideas.

But I was really surprised about the prices of this particular book on Amazon.

Hardback – 17.92
Paperback – 12.25
Kindle – 11.64

The Kindle ebook was only 61p less than the paperback. Why was that? It was published by a major publisher. I don’t have the answer, but the publisher was making a killing on all ebook sales and I hope that the extra margin was being shared fairly with the author.

I decided to look around at other books written by people I know ie children’s authors. In most cases from my random selection, the ebooks were about £2.00 lower in price to their paper equivalent. I think that is a fair differential. For one well established, very famous author, her most famous title was about £4.00 cheaper in ebook format. Maybe high volume sales are influencing the price. I hope this author has a water tight contract in place to protect their income.

But then I looked at a certain internet sensation turned ‘author’. The kindle edition was more expensive than the paperback. What is going on?

My head is spinning. I don’t understand it at all. Surely books should have one price. Ebooks can be a bit cheaper (but not selling for 20p), authors should be able to make a living and publishers are entitled to make a profit.

But one thing is certain – I am not buying a book which I consider to be overpriced – whatever the format. The title I wanted was available at a cheaper price second hand. So I ordered that instead. That means the author will not get anything from the sale. Nor will the publisher.  If the publisher had set a reasonable price in the first place, I probably would have chosen differently.

I wish publishers would agree a strategy for pricing books and ebooks that satisfies everyone.

Meanwhile I will continue to be choosy about which books I buy and in which format.