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Favorite e-book price: free

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Many in publishing are looking optimistically toward e-books -- they're easier to distribute than traditional books, could shape new business models and provide new revenue streams. One hope is that e-books might provide a lower price point than printed books, which can be $25 and up for a hardcover.

But free is probably a little lower than any publisher was thinking.

Sunday, industry blog Galleycat looked at Amazon's bestseller list for the Kindle and found that 64 out of the top 100 Kindle bestsellers are free -- they're being "sold" for $0.00. And as of this writing -- the list is updated hourly -- the number is the same. Sixty-four  of Amazon's 100 e-book bestsellers are free.

In a Saturday press release, Amazon declared, "On Christmas Day, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books." This might be big news on another day, but it's clear that e-books are instant and there's a lot of pressure to have gifts in hand on Christmas. Instead, we have to wonder, what does "purchased" mean, exactly?

Amazon's top 10 Kindle bestsellers currently include a large portion that are free. The list now has eight free books. Only two in the top 10 -- one each from major bestselling authors Dan Brown and James Patterson -- will generate any revenue. If customers at Amazon continue to "purchase" e-books at a rate that rivals traditional books -- but the majority of those e-books are free -- what does that mean for e-books, and the publishers that make them?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo by randomduck via Flickr

Comments () | Archives (9)

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We are still in the infancy stage of this market. Later on, consumers will be willing to pay for e books, if the content has enough value in it. Think of still untapped markets: like new gen of kids who prefer watching and browsing through rather than detailed reading.

And what are the titles? This is a disappointing tease to nothing.

Cathi, click on the link on the word "Amazon's" above (in the phrase, "Amazon's 100 e-book bestsellers") and you will be taken directly to their top 100 list.

I see the price of ebooks going nowhere but down, similar to music. Greedy publishers fuel piracy, which supresses prices.

As a loyal Kindle owner and voracious reader, I'll download anything that is free. However, to my happy surprise among the junk have been great books that I never would have read. AND more importantly, I have gone on to purchase anything else I could find from that author. So, while I may download a free book, in the end I have ended up paying more for the rest of the books that I never would have been introduced to if I had not read the free one.

I suspect that the large number of Kindle books purchased on Christmas Day resulted from people receiving Kindles as presents and wanting to start using them.

Well, "anon" is so right, as is Maureen. Publishers really need to get out of the protectionist way of thinking. They won't win the anti-piracy battle, the same as the music industry didn't. Only when ebooks come down to a realistic price (and I'm thinking that $5 absolute maximum would be a more-than-realistic price) will the ebook industry grow.

In addition, they need to do more on the 'teasing' issue: "Here's the first 3 chapters of this great new book. Download now. Buy the complete ebook (for less than $5, obviously)

The prices of ebooks should in fact decline but they must do so in a way to support the writers. It's perfectly fine for the price to drop, but if the royalties for the artist do as well, this isn't productive. With more than 200,000 books a year, publishers are still important.

First, there's no such thing as a reasonable price. Why spend 5 $ or 1 $ when you can have something for free? There'll be always someone kind enough and rich enough to spend money supporting an author but they're a distinct minority.
Second, in the music business an artist can support himself by live concerts if he can't make money by selling records. The possibilities for a writer are distinctly limited.
Three easy outcome: one, the part time author, not as a first stage but forever. Writing at night after a hard day's work in a shopping mall - forever.
Second, mecenatism, the author is kindly supported by a rich man in exchange for flattery. Clearly, this could, how to say, shackle his/her creativity or freedom but he will be well fed and able to concentrate on his work without worrying about the public.
Three, the author as a rich man with leisure time.
As Karl Valentin said, even the future was better in the past...


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