eBook Pricing

I promised a few weeks ago I’d give a more detailed response on ebook pricing in a separate post than I could in comments. It’s taken longer than I thought, and actually gone through many discussions and draft versions. So here’s the simplest honest answer I can give now:

  • ebook pricing is more complicated than meets the casual eye. One of the commenters here pointed to this excellent New York Times article about the real cost of ebooks.
  • It’s generated a ton of passionate discussion internally here
  • The announcements of new ebook selling models between other publishers (mostly outside of computer book publishing) and ebook retailers recently has made the discussion even more complicated

That said, what’s the right price for an ebook? For you, the customer, it’s the price you are willing to pay. And actually, we’re very pleased with our sales so far with the current pricing and temporary discount on the new DRM-free ebooks (discount code: NODRM for 20% off through April 30, 2010). While we’ve gotten some passionate and well argued points that ebook prices should be lower, we’ve sold a lot of ebooks to a lot of happy customers too.

I think we hire some of the best authors in the business. When Brian Knight can sell his 3 day online training for $750, $40-50 for his ebook seems fair to me. Where else for $40-50 can you get the results of months and hundreds of hours of labor from Jack Moffitt, who was on the standards board for XMPP or Michael Kay who was the XSLT editor for W3Schools W3C. Next week at Microsoft Mix or SharePointPro you could pay more than a $1000 to see several 1 hour presentations by our authors including Scott Hanselman, Andrew Connell, Steve Fox, and many others. Are the books in ebook format they spent hundreds of hours on not worth $40-50?

Yes, I know there are competing publishers who have lower priced books. The difference in price usually comes down to $5-15 after the discount. If you’re looking at an apples to apples comparison of a similar level book by authors with similar coverage in the book and similar credentials, I say, buy the better book. If you need an ASP.NET book and you make part of your living writing ASP.NET code, don’t shortchange your career buying an inferior ebook to save $10. But when our competitors have better books, that’s when we want to hear about it from you and know what we can do to earn your business next time with the best book.



10 responses to “eBook Pricing”

  1. kgutteridge says:

    I find I am much more inclined to buy tech ebooks, including recently your Professional Android Development 2 and Apress’s more iPhone 3 development, interesting I had both of the original versions as paperbacks (which did lead to a discount on more iPhone 3 development), because of the speed the mobile tech world moves at  the ebooks are ideal
    Two rubs for me with ebooks that greatly affect my view on price,
    1) DRM at the moment I have a Sony PRS 505 to read ebooks on, however I am conscious this is likely to change in the future and I want to be able to take purchased ebooks with me, rather than renting ala the Kindle
    2) Choice of formats, as the cost of distribution once these are made is minor if the publisher has both ePubs and PDF’s thats great!

  2.  My two cents (ignoring price, as you will always have to be competitive in any market):
    To make wrox a more compelling publisher you need to 
    1) Offer these ebooks in formats such as epub as well as PDF.  PDF is great on my laptop but not very usable on my iPhone/Nexus One.
    2) Offer early access to books (on a chapter by chapter basis) before they are finished.  This is crucial for the technology market. For example with the Manning Early Access Program I was able to purchase an ebook on PostGIS that only had 5/12 chapters complete when I purchased. Since then, I’ve been given access to the next four chapters and have been able to provide early feedback and maybe help shape the rest of the book so that it is more compelling for its real audience. 

  3. jminatel says:

    Damien: Yes, additiona formats are important and coming. I’ve got a few notes on books coming in ePub and Mobi here:
    Early Access is a great idea. And I’ll be the first to congratulate Manning on the good job they do with it. I want to do it, hopefully after all of the other ebook improvements we’re working on this is something we can tackle.

  4. Alexei says:

    Pricing is not as easy question as it may seem. Salary of an average professional programmer is not the same across the globe. It varies significantly. Programmer in one country (or even in different regions of the same country) may earn just a small portion of what his or her colleague from another country has for exactly the same job. Would you be so willing to pay 50$ for a book if it costs 1/10 of your monthly salary for example?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Most publishers pay less commission for an ebook and for physical books they get $1-$3 per book yeah? So it’s not the author that gets the money its the publisher. Don’t try to fool anyone and how dare you try to guilt trip us. I reject your explaination 100% and I feel insulted by it.

  6. jminatel says:

    Anonymous: Our contracts are private matters between us and our authors so I won’t share the details but I can assure you that most of our authors are paid the same percentage (or more) of our book revenue for an ebook sale than for a print book sale.

  7. jcartland says:

    An example of what’s annoying me:  the Moffitt book you mention. I want it, and I want it now. That’s why I’m at this website. But the download from Wrox, after 20% discount, is $5 more than hardcopy from Amazon, with free shipping. Somehow, that just feels wrong…

  8. pjh says:

     There are several ebooks on your site that would love to order – had them in the cart and my credit card in hand but when I saw the total I could bring myself to complete the transaction.  Your prices are 3 to 4 times higher than Apress or Oreilly after their offers.   They even keep track of the books I’ve purchased, notify me when there are updates, let me download them months later in whatever the format I need (Oreilly does a fine job at this).  I am really pleased with the experience they offer and I come back again and again. 
    With Wrox I’m not sure what I am getting.  Try purchasing the Pro ASP.NET 4 ebook. What is the format you are selling? There is no mention of a PDF format until its in the cart.  What are the restrictions?  Can’t tell.  Is it really DRM free?  Can’t tell.  Do I really have only two weeks to download it?  Why am I paying so much for a ebook? Can’t tell…

  9. Joe says:

     I actually agree with what jminatel is saying in terms of the value of the ***content*** in the books.  Come on guys, we are developers – is $5-$10 dollars really going to make a huge difference if the quality of the book is high?  And I have to believe that many of us reading this feel that Wrox books are of very high quality – if you think they are crap, then stop wasting your time complaining about the prices and move on.  In my opinion, the only publisher that comes close is APress, but thats just my opinion…
    Having said that, I also completely agree with what jcartland said.  I have felt strange about the ebook versus print pricing ("it just feels wrong"), but until I read that post couldnt put my finger on it.
    Wrox cannot say "the cost to us is the same whether we provide it as a download or a hardcopy" with a straight face, right?
    My big beef is the double whammy we are getting if we already shelled out mucho dinero (admittedly for high quality content)?  I bought a license to read the content, right?  So why cant wrox sell me an electronic edition of the content "for a song"?

  10. jminatel says:

    Please see the latest news as of Dec 2010 about new Wrox DRM-free PDF ebook prices:

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