I’m Asking the Questions Here: E-Book Edition

by J.D. Rhoades

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently followed the example of some other “traditionally” published writers: I’ve put one of my novels (one that never found another home) up as an e-book-only offering for Kindle and other e-readers. Both Joe Konrath and Lee Goldberg have reported some good results from their excursions, and Konrath seems to have become convinced he’s going to make more money this year at  e-pubbing than at the traditional kind.

So far, I haven’t quite gotten to the point that Joe has,  where he’s selling 180 e-books a day. But things are percolating right along for STORM SURGE (available for Kindle HERE and other formats HERE).

I have, during the course of this experiment,  had occasion to drop in and lurk on message boards and blogs and the like where the Kindlers and Nookies and their brethren of the little silver screen congregate. I’ve seen some issues raised there about which I’d like to get some feedback from our loyal readers.

One subject  that seems to get a lot of talk is “Why the hell hasn’t Big-Ass Publishing released the new Byron B. Blockbuster novel for Kindle?” Followed by the inevitable, “It must be corporate greed!” Sometimes, the author even gets the blame, although I don’t see as much of that lately.

It does seem true that  the standard practice for publishers is to release the hardcover first and the e-book later. This, IIRC, was one of the sticking points in the whole Macmillan/ Amazon kerfluffle a while back.

The strategy appears to be based on some assumptions, one of which is that e-book buyers also buy print books and  people who have e-book readers won’t buy the hardcover if there’s a cheaper alternative.

Which leads us to our first set of questions, which are oriented towards finding out  “is that necessarily so?”

1. How many of you read:

a) exclusively print?

b) exclusively e-books?

c) both, but mostly print?

d) both, but mostly e-books?

2. If your answer is “c” or “d” and the e-book and hardcover came out at the same time for the same price, which would you buy?

3. If the e-book came out later, and you knew it would be cheaper, would you wait? Does the answer depend on the book?

4. Are there circumstances under which you’d buy both? Have you done that?

Price is a big issue. I recognize the arguments that producing an e-book still entails the same editorial, design, etc. costs as a hardcover. Still, there are a lot of readers out there whose breaking point seems to be  $9.99. A thread on the Amazon message boards titled “Boycott Books Over $9.99” recently had to be restarted when it rolled over 10, 000 posts. In my own experience,   BREAKING COVER for Kindle was once $14.99 (it’s $12.99 now), and I got e-mails from people who were extremely pissed,  and not in the happy British sense of that word. 

Konrath’s Hypothesis holds that people buy cheap e-books: if they’re cheaper, they’ll sell more and make more money for the author. (STORM SURGE, by the way, sells for $1.99)

So our second set of questions  has to do with price.

5. If you have an e-reader, was it the promise of cheap books that lured you to it?

6. What’s your  “breaking point” price for an e-book?

7. Do you resent an e-book priced nearly as high as a print book?

One thing that I’ve noticed about e-publishing is how easy it would be to market non-standard length works, such as the hard-to-sell novellas (17,500 to 40,000 words) and novelettes (7500 to 17,499 words). It’s just not practical for a traditional publisher to print and  sell those , unless they’re part of a collection, and how often does THAT come along?  So:

8. Would you buy a shorter work for an e-reader? Have you?

9. What would you consider a fair price for a novella or novelette, as defined above?

So let me hear it, cats n’ kittens. Lay some of that sweet knowledge on me.

51 thoughts on “I’m Asking the Questions Here: E-Book Edition

  1. Chris Hamilton

    I don’t have an e-reader and price is part of that picture. If I buy a Kindle for, say $260 and books are $9.99 and the matching hardcover is $25, I need to buy 17 hardcover books on the Kindle to pay for it. If the price is $15, I need to buy 26 hardcover books. But if the book comes out a few months later, I don’t get my value back.

    With kids and mortgages and real life, I don’t have the money to buy 17-26 hardcovers a year. It would take me nearly five years to pay for the Kindle, which is important to me because I can really only use it for reading.

    As tablet computers become more ubiquitous, I’ll care less about recouping cost, because now my e-reader is a multi-use piece of hardware, eventually, maybe, replacing my laptop. At that point, cost becomes less of a factor than "Hey, it’s time to replace the laptop."

    In order, my answers are
    1. a
    2. not applicable.
    3. Depends on the book. If I spent a mess of money on something whose sole function is to let me read books, I’ll buy everything e-book so I get return on investment.
    4. I can’t conceive of buying both. There are a lot of things I couldn’t conceive that I have done.
    5. Technically not applicable, but I’ll answer the opposite question. I haven’t bought one because I don’t get ROI quickly enough. Yet.
    6. Again, I’ll answer the opposite question. The price of the book will set my breaking point on buying a reader. Right now, $260 is too much. $100 wouldn’t be.
    7. I’d argue that $15 isn’t "nearly as high" as $25. And in this case I agree with Douglas Preston. What’s to resent? You aren’t entitled to cheap e-books. If the economics aren’t there, don’t buy the reader.
    8. Sure. I might read more shorter works with an e-reader. But I have not purchased any.
    9. If a book is $15, I wouldn’t buy a short story for more than $3-$5 unless there was incredible buzz. A novella would be a little more.

  2. Reader Deb

    My biggest complaint is that when I look on Amazon, I can’t find the hard copy books among all the Kindle offerings! I ONLY read hard copy books. In fact, I prefer hard covers to paperbacks. I am willing to pay around $30. Some books recently have come out at crazy prices, like $50 and $60. I won’t go that far. In a case like that I’ll certainly wait for the paperback. While I’m not a technophobe, I appreciate the permanence of a hard copy book.

  3. Mark Terry

    My own Kindle title, which I have written about at-length, Dancing In The Dark, is priced at $1.49. The Fallen, recently out in hardcover, also has an e-book version and last I checked the price was $14.95. I have more than a few concerns about all the books by Joe and, er, me and you, and others, at 99 cents or $1.99. Clearly e-book users are attracted to cheap books. And if you remember, when Borders and Barnes & Noble really got going in the late 80s and early 90s, the primary thing they did to drive independent bookstores out of business was to sell books cheap. Nobody wanted to buy a bestseller for full price, they had to have 25%, 30% or sometimes even 40% off the cover price. That worked well for them at the time, but I wonder now that they’re struggling if they think that consciously and deliberately programming consumers to expect the "appropriate" prices of a book to be anywhere from 10% to 40% off the list price was really a good idea.

    And it IS consumer programming. Why is $20 an acceptable price for a movie DVD, but $50 is an acceptable price for a video game? Because consumers have been trained to accept those prices.

    Now Amazon has gone out of its way to program the consumer to accept that $9.99 is the appropriate price for an e-book (basically to supercharge sales of the Kindle), but many authors such as JA Konrath and myself are nibbling away at that, pushing the price point even lower. It’s sort of like Tom Hanks’s character in "You’ve Got Mail" saying, "I sell cheap books. So shoot me."

    Well, in the foot, maybe.

    One of the problems I see, for a change, appears global, that is, publishers in general are still viewing e-books as a subsidiary right. And why not? E-books are only about 3% of the market. If 97% percent of my revenue came from print, I’d be reluctant–even if economically it was possible–to change my business model around to accommodate the 3%. So print publishers sort of have the appearance–and it may be more than appearance, after all–that they’re deaf, dumb and blind to what’s going on with e-books, when in fact (I hope) they’re trying to control the consumer programming to accept a price point that will allow them to stay in business. Let’s face it, if all book publishing goes to electronic formats, no major and probably very few if any small publishers are going to be able to stay in business publishing books priced at $1.99. There’s an argument that the lower price point will sell more books overall, but I’m skeptical that even at a lower price point, once people get away from the novelty of playing with their new gadget and buying more books than they can read for $1.99, they’re going to continue loading up their readers with titles they’re never going to get around to reading. Eventually they’re going to say, "Hell, I’m never going to get around to this, so why bother?" (The first thing we did with the iPad bookstore was to download a bunch of free books. But I stopped because really, am I going to read any of these free classics when my to-be-read pile is already about 50 books?)

    We bought an iPad and my son and my wife are reading books on it. One problem that’s come up immediately is that my youngest son and I can’t wrest the device away from them in any convenient time frame to read books on it. That means, for it to really be useful as an e-reader in a family of readers, we’re going to need 3 or 4 of these devices. I expect that to happen … eventually … but I’m not quite ready to lay out an additional $500+ for another iPad just yet.

    I’ve read a book on my iPhone’s Kindle app and I was reading another, but I decided that it was more annoying than carrying a book with me, so I’ve stopped reading it. On the other hand, I’ll be doing some traveling in June and spending some time in airports, planes, and taxi cabs, so maybe it’ll be more useful then.

  4. PK the Bookeemonster

    I have a Kindle.

    1. How many of you read:
    I read both and right now it’s a about 50/50.

    a) exclusively print?

    b) exclusively e-books?

    c) both, but mostly print?

    d) both, but mostly e-books?

    2. If your answer is "c" or "d" and the e-book and hardcover came out at the same time for the same price, which would you buy?
    It depends on the author. I bought Ariana Franklin’s in hardback because I have her other books and would like to "collect" them (not for profit but for my personal reading library). I just got Elizabeth George’s newest on the Kindle because I want to read it, my library is lately sucking because it switched to a new catalogue system, and I don’t need the book itself. And at 700 pages, the Kindle is more convenient to carry around.

    3. If the e-book came out later, and you knew it would be cheaper, would you wait? Does the answer depend on the book?
    Depends on the book/author. I will wait if it’s just the next in a series and I have others to read. If it’s a new release and I want to read it NOW, I wouldn’t wait.

    4. Are there circumstances under which you’d buy both? Have you done that?
    I have bought both. I read HERESY by SJ Parris on the Kindle then decided to add it to my personal library.

    5. If you have an e-reader, was it the promise of cheap books that lured you to it?
    No. Because I wanted the convenience of downloading books when I wanted them. And easy mobility.

    6. What’s your "breaking point" price for an e-book?

    7. Do you resent an e-book priced nearly as high as a print book?
    Yes, especially if it were a hardback. Paperback, I’d be a little more lenient.

    One thing that I’ve noticed about e-publishing is how easy it would be to market non-standard length works, such as the hard-to-sell novellas (17,500 to 40,000 words) and novelettes (7500 to 17,499 words). It’s just not practical for a traditional publisher to print and sell those , unless they’re part of a collection, and how often does THAT come along? So:

    8. Would you buy a shorter work for an e-reader? Have you?
    I’ve not done so; it’s not my preferred type of reading. But I might if it were an author I really really liked.

    9. What would you consider a fair price for a novella or novelette, as defined above?
    $5 or less.

  5. Mikaela

    1. d
    2. Depends on the author, and how much money I have
    3. I would wait.
    4. Not yet 🙂
    5. Not really.
    6. I think my breaking point is 15 dollar.
    7. Yes and no. Yes, because there are no printing and shipping etc. No, because there are still costs involved.
    8. Yes, I have bought shorter work.
    9. I would be willing to pay 5 dollar, but not more. ( Ok. I did pay 10 dollar for CE Murphy’s novella, but that was an exception, plus it was only available for a month.)

  6. Mikaela

    @ Mark Terry: If you want a cheap ebook reader check out Jetbook , or the Kobo reader that’s coming later this year. Jetbook is roughly 150 dollar, and Kobo reader will cost the same.

    @ JD: I forgot to mention that I bought Stormsurge, and I really really liked it :). Also, if you want to I can post at Mobileread, telling them that Stormsurge is available.

    Ps. When will Dancing in the Dark be available at Smashwords, Mark?

  7. Mark Terry

    God only knows. I’m buried in deadlines with paying work for the next couple weeks at least–a book length report, a nonfiction book, an article, and my own fiction. I’m hoping to at least change the artwork today or tomorrow if we can get the glitches worked out. The e-books are on my to-do list, but those other deadlines take precedent.

  8. Cornelia Read

    I only read print books, at the moment, but now watch TV 90 percent of the time on my computer, so who the hell knows if I’ll stick to that. Can’t afford an e-reader right now, though I suppose I could download the Kindle app for my iPhone. But I don’t wanna.

  9. JD Rhoades

    if you want to I can post at Mobileread, telling them that Stormsurge is available.

    Thanks, Mikaela, that’d be great.

    And 150 dollar e-book readers are going to be the game changer.

    Mark makes a point I hadn’t considered…if the whole family reads as mine does, you’d need one for everyone.

    I’m fascinated by the answers here. Keep ’em coming!

  10. Terry Odell

    I have an old e-book reader, the eBookwise. Many publishers are reluctant to make books available because the reader can actually OWN the book (copy stored on their computer). However, I love its features and its price, so I’m not ready to upgrade.

    Also, these polls tend to discount all the publishers out there who target the digital market first. Their books tend to be much cheaper, in the $3-$7 range, which is comparable to a discount paperback.

    I’m frugal. If a book comes out first in hard cover, I get it from the library, then will either buy it in digital or paper, depending on how much I liked it (or the author–confess to buying some books I know I’ll never read again, but I ‘collect’ that author).

    If a book is available formatted for my reader, I’m more likely to buy it that way (with the exception noted above). And having just moved cross country, to a much smaller house, I wish I had more digital books.

    I think I’ve only paid full retail for a hard cover once, and that was at a Michael Connelly book signing at an indie store, where the proprietor offered priority seating and a slot at the front of the line if you bought the book there.

    For my other hard cover purchases, it’s through The Mystery Guild 95 times out of 100.

    I know I didn’t answer the poll, but there IS a difference between print publishers who put their books into digital format, and digital publishers who put their books into print.

  11. Eika

    Let’s get you some answers.

    1. C.
    2. It’s a really hard choice. Essentially, I read books like Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother: released for free on-line. I don’t have enough money to justify purchases that often; I usually wind up at the library.
    3. The answer always depends on the book. Books in series that I’ve been reading and waiting for the next one for ages? Those are PREORDERED in hardcover, thank you. Other books? Meh. However I manage to get them.
    4. Haven’t bought both yet, but I can think of situations where I would; if I was going to do a lot of traveling, like a friend is now, buying e-books so I can carry them easier would have me getting extra copies of things.

    Can’t answer the rest of them, because I technically just bum off other’s e-readers right now… but I hope these help.

  12. Louise Ure

    I’m a "C": Some electronic but mostly hard cover print reader.

    And since I use my electronic reading purely as a convenience when lugging a bunch of books around isn’t easy, cost is not much of a decider for me. $15 for a book? OK. $5-10 for a novella? Sure.

  13. Becky LeJeune

    I’m a print only girl. My reasons are price, comfort, and reliability — I simply prefer the feel of a physical book. I’m staring at a computer screen all day for work, and in some instances actually reading books on my computer for work, when I sit down to read a book for enjoyment, I want a real, live, paper book in my hands.

    I do buy hardcovers, but I tend to keep my books. I like to be able to go back to them later. With a Kindle, not only would I have to cough up the initial investment, but then I’d have to pay for each ebook and, because I am the way I am, I suspect that would then lead me to buying the physical book for the purposes of having it to go back to later. So that means for every book I buy on the Kindle, I’ll potentially be buying the print book as well — not a good investment for me.

    And reliability — I have had a hard drive crash. I have lost everything. I have had technology change on me and "my" version become obsolete in a blink. With a physical book, there’s never a question of compatibility (unless I somehow forget how to read altogether).

    The ease and convenience of ebooks is nice for some and believe me, for a spur of the moment shopper, the speed with which you can have access to the book in eversion (click, download, it’s yours right away) would be a big plus for me, but it outweighed by everything else.

  14. Jen Brubacher

    1. My answer is d: both, but mostly ebooks.

    2. I would buy the ebook, unless it was collectible in some way (signed, a coffee-table book, a joke book for Christmas reading, etc.)

    3. I rarely buy books immediately upon publication, so yes, it depends on the book because the only books I’d be buying right away I’d probably grab any format I could.

    4. I’d buy both paper book and ebook if I had a chance to get one signed.

    5. No, the "promise of cheap books" did not lead me to my ereader.

    6. Usually 10 pounds, so about 20 dollars. People in the US have a really skewed vision of what an ebook should cost. That whole "Boycott over $9.99!" thing is just ridiculous.

    7. I don’t resent an ebook and book priced similarly. I resent an ebook priced higher.

    8. I’ve purchased novellas and books of poetry as ebooks.

    9. It depends on the novel/novella. It really does.

    If you’re actually going to go through all these answers and put up some kind of result list, I’d love to see it!

  15. Dana King

    Before giving my answers, thanks for this. I sometimes get the impression publishers themselves do little, if any, research into how they might refine and improve their business models, and tend to react, well, reactively.

    1. Exclusively print
    2. N/A
    3. If I had an e-reader, I’d probably wait, just as I do now for paperbacks.
    4. No, unless I wanted one for a gift, or something happened to my original.
    5. If I get an e-reader, price will be why.
    6. I can’t imagine paying more than $10 for an e-book, especially one I knew was also hardcover. The publisher has recovered his editing, cover design, and marketing costs in the hardcover version, and has no real printing or distribution costs. I know they dispute that, but no one has convinced me that a lot of the e-book purchase price wouldn’t go directly to their bottom line.
    7. Yes
    8. Yes.
    9. It would depend on the author and on how bad I wanted the book.

  16. Gar Anthony Haywood


    Haven’t gone the e-book route yet (as a reader or writer), but I can see how I almost certainly will eventually, once costs become more reasonable. What does that mean? For the reader itself—assuming it’s only a single-purpose device, not an iPad-like multipurpose EverythingMachine—the highest I’d go is probably $150. For the e-books themselves? Well, that’s a harder question to answer.

    Because right now, an e-book is pretty much just written text, with maybe an illustration or two thrown in for good measure. For that, why would anybody want to pay more than $9.99?

    However, we’re being told that somewhere down the line, e-books are going to be packed to the gills with extra content (links to videos, trailers, photos, background material, author info, etc.) that a physical book just can’t provide. Now, when that happens, who knows what myself and others will be willing to pay for an e-book? $15? $25?

    You’re absolutely right about it all being dependent on what publishers can train readers to believe is an appropriate pricing model. The problem is, they’re not going to have an easy time convincing people that really high prices are justified because the publishing process has become too transparent—the Internet has made dissemination of data relative to their true costs too widespread to be ignored.

    My guess is, we’ll end up paying around $99 for a reader-ony device, and $20 for the ultimate e-book with all the added-value stuff, once all the smoke clears. But that’s just a guess.

  17. Kagey

    To throw an interesting twist on this, my husband and I usually acquire our books as gifts. We look at and drool over books all year long, then load up our Christmas and birthday wish lists. This is great for my mom, who really doesn’t know what else to give my husband. And if she can’t find it at her local bookseller in November/ December, he doesn’t get it.

    We don’t have a Kindle, but he has read free ebooks on his laptop and palmtop, so the point, for the most part, is moot. But we’ll get there someday.

    How do you give an e-book? And how does a non-techie like my mom "find" them to give?

  18. kit

    Hi JD,

    I don’t own a book reader, have thought about it,though.

    I enjoy holding a book in my hands and reading that way.
    The one thing, I have noticed and no-one seems to have mentioned, is this…published books take up space, one of the reasons I have never been real possessive about books in general.
    They also start taking on a life of their own, yes, some are old friends and favorites, but if you ever moved around ..you need to store them properly, take care of them, and if you have a real addiction…can take over your space and life.

    It’s *out there* but there’s also the GREEN thing…trees, recycle, re-use.

  19. MJ

    I just got a Kindle, mainly for convenience (carry so much in one little package) and lower rates on some of the newspapers I get. I’ve been active in clicking the ‘I want this on Kindle!!" buttons on Amazon.com and I do plan to wait for the e version of some or many of those books.

    Why? I have way, way too many books at home. I’d rather have electronic files more than piles, and I work too much, so I can wait for the e version. I will not buy both because that contributes to the "sliding piles" problem. Might still buy paper, but it might need to be for a good reason.

    I have bought above $9.99, but am holding out on the Patricia Highsmith bio because at that price I’d even hold out on the hardcover! Over $20 usually stops me in any case.

    ** PS – just looked at Highsmith bio on Amazon. It is $19. I SWEAR it was over $20 or $24 a month ago.

  20. toni mcgee causey

    I’m running behind schedule, so this may have gotten mentioned and I missed it, but there’s another factor that you have to put into the equation, and that’s the fact that the apps for reading ebooks are available for free (mostly) for laptops and desktops. There’s absolutely no requirement that you have an e-reader to take advantage of ebook pricing, so you don’t necessarily *have* to factor in the cost of the ereader to see if it’s economically viable.

    Not everyone wants to read on their laptops, but many do.

    I have a Kindle (and there are pros and cons to it). I’d rather have a multi-use machine, like an iPad, which I think is obviously going to be a game changer in how we all end up feeling about ereaders pretty soon.

    Price point issue — if the ebook and the hardback were to come out at the same time, would I buy the cheaper version? That depends entirely on whether I already know the author. There are some who are automatic buys in hardcover because I already trust them to tell the story. Others are in the "I’ll wait for the paperback" category. But with the e-reader, I can download a sample of their chapters for free to read at my convenience and then buy the book and have it *right then* if I want to keep reading. This is an advantage over simply having an excerpt up on a website, where I’d read the excerpt and then decide to order the book. I’ll stop and think more about that moment. But if I’m in the throes of enjoying the book and want to keep reading it right then, I can buy it, download it, and keep going. That’s a sale they would have missed out on if I had to go through the slower process or if I had to hie myself to the bookstore. (There are no indies in my area — I have to drive about 30 minutes to the nearest big box store.)

    So not having the ebook available at the same time as the hardcover isn’t going to get me to go buy that hardcover. It just means I put off buying it ’til I make it into the store, and often, by that point, I’ve forgotten the impetus to buy, or forgotten the title for something newer that has caught my eye.

  21. Allison Davis

    Excuse me while I’ll download all these ebooks onto my computer (thanks all). My first e-book was Finder’s Paranoia because it was a free download and I was following him on Twitter. I don’t have an e-reader yet but figured I’d save the downloads for later on my laptop and get one of those apps that Toni discussed.

    I’m an old fashioned girl and love my books and have them everywhere (as many of you know as you have signed them). But I admit, that if iPad or some other reader begins to look easy and readable (kindle doesn’t do it for me yet), I travel so much that it would be great to load it up for travel without hauling the library.

    I don’t care so much about price if I want a book — I buy hardcover books because I am inpatient to read them but then again I download the ebooks when they are free (or nearly so — anything under $2 is free). So I think it depends upon the book. I’m not so afraid of electronic reading as I once was although I have been supersubscribing to newspapers because I love the feel of the newsprint but read plenty of news on line so why not books?

    And any vehicle to get the words to the reader is good…I’m sure the monks that did illuminated manuscripts lamented Gutenburg….

  22. Allison Davis

    uh, sorry:

    1. C
    2. print likely – hardcover if I love the author
    3. depends upon how badly I want the book.
    4. Yes, sometimes. I have both e version and hard copy of several books.
    5-8 ebooks should be less expensive than print (lower overhead; greener choice); shorter works, sure, price isn’t a big deal but overall electronic versions should be less.

  23. Barbie

    I don’t think my answers count much, because they’re mostly based on practicality (is this a word?).

    I’ve gone from exclusively reading printing books, to pretty much exclusively reading e-books in a year. I haven’t completely dissed the books, of course, but it’s so much simpler for me to read an e-book. I’ll buy the e-book over the hardcover for one single reason: I live in Brazil. I’ve bought books in which shipping was more expensive than the books, and it takes A MONTH for it to arrive here. With an e-book, I can buy it with a click, without the shipping and arrives instantly. It’s a no brainer.

    I don’t usually buy books in bookstores anymore, simply because most of the authors I read aren’t available here, translated or the original. And I don’t read translations anymore, so, I gotta have the original anyway. I think e-book is simpler to buy, to carry and to hold (I mostly read lying down and it’s so uncomfortable to keep trying and turning around to find the right way to hold the book and keep it open. The Kindle is just a flat screen.

    But, yeah, when I get to the US, I’ll probably buy a bunch of books I already have as e-books in print, just ’cause I love to read them. Books are books. But, in the end, I don’t care that much. It’s the story that truly matters. I could read it written in a napkin for all I care if it’s a really good one 🙂

  24. Venus de Hilo

    I haven’t bought paper fiction since I got my Kindle six months ago, although I still buy paper cooking/crafts/photo-intensive books. IMO ebooks should not be priced above what the paperback is or will be, and should be under $10. Delaying the ebook release will not inspire me to buy a hardcover (unless I find it cheap at Costco, and then only maybe), and I can’t imagine ever buying both print and ebook of anything.

    I’ll wait for an ebook at what I consider a reasonable price, the way I used to wait for paperback editions, but some authors will lose sales. I read an interview on another blog yesterday; the author’s new mystery sounded delightful, so I clicked over to Amazon to check the Kindle price. Alas, it was not yet in the Kindle store, and by the time it is I will have either forgotten about it or will have added many other titles above it to my "read these" list. That author (and her publisher) had the opportunity to make an impulse ebook sale to me (at 9.99 max), but missed it.

  25. Kim Stagliano

    I have a Kindle. I purchase almost exclusively e-books. For author friends, I purchase their hardcopy. I just got Stephen Parrish’s The Tavernier Stones and Jenny Gardiner’s Winging It from Amazon today. Price? Depends on the author. I will pay up to $14.99 for an ebook, for say, a JK Rowling book I know I’ll keep forever. I prefer to remain around $9.99. I am frustrated when my desired book is not on Kindle – but I understand. Will the iPad challenge the Kindle? Great post. Thanks for the chance to chime in on the debate. KIM, "All I Can Handle, I’m No Mother Teresa." Nove 2010 Skyhorse

  26. Allison Brennan

    I only read print books because I spend 4-10 hours a day writing on my computer and I don’t want to read on one, even in bed.

    However, I am 90% certain I’m getting the iPad 3G. I will very likely buy a few books for it. I will very likely download manuscripts I’m asked to blurb that are not bound into arcs. I highly doubt the iPad will replace my love of physical books. And there is no way I would take the iPad into the bathtub, which is where I do a large chunk of my reading!

    I agree with pretty much everything Mark Terry said. Except, none of my kids want an e-reader, even my daughter who reviews books for RT. She took four books with her for her trip to Washington that she’s reading for review. She said she’d rather have extra books than an extra pair of shoes.

  27. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I’m with Allison – the LAST thing I want to do after being on my computer all day is read books on a device. It makes me feel inhuman and also like I’m still working. So I don’t own an e reader and I have not downloaded Kindle for Mac.

    I buy books. I check them out at the library. If I like something I read at the library I buy it because I read books I like over and over again.

    No, I don’t think I’m representative.

    This is a really interesting discussion.

  28. Alafair Burke

    Sorry for my recent silence, fellow ‘Rati. Been planes, trains, automobiles, and classrooms for me lately.
    1. c
    2. Print unless I wanted to carry it to travel or wait to read it later.
    3. No
    4. No
    5. Not primarily. convenience & space savings.
    6. none
    7. no
    8. yes, great for individual short stories!
    9. No idea!
    That’s the problem with the $9.99 norm; it has people thinking that the intellectual content of a book only costs 10 bucks, and the rest is the cost of paper!

  29. Stephen Blackmoore

    1. How many of you read:
    d) both, but mostly e-books
    In my house we’ve got a Kindle, a Nook and two iphones with the both those readers and Stanza on them. The readers for the iphones are free downloads. We’ve got them all keyed to the same accounts, so if we get a copy on the Kindle or the Nook it can be read on the phones, too.

    2. If your answer is "c" or "d" and the e-book and hardcover came out at the same time for the same price, which would you buy?
    The ebook. I can get it right now and without having to go anywhere. And, in most cases, I can download a sample to see if I like it.

    3. If the e-book came out later, and you knew it would be cheaper, would you wait? Does the answer depend on the book?
    No. Price isn’t as big a factor for me as convenience and availability. And if I want the book and there’s no ebook version when I want it, I’ll get the physical book.

    4. Are there circumstances under which you’d buy both? Have you done that?
    Yes, I have. It was to get a copy signed, but I wanted to read the book before I’d get a chance to pick up the physical one.

    5. If you have an e-reader, was it the promise of cheap books that lured you to it?
    No. It was the convenience. Well, that and the, "Ooooh, shiny," factor. I like living in the future.

    6. What’s your "breaking point" price for an e-book?
    Depends on the book, really. If it’s something that just grabs my eye from an author I know nothing about, I’ll hesitate if it’s over 10 bucks. But if it’s by someone I like, or a book I’ve been waiting for, about 15-20 bucks.

    7. Do you resent an e-book priced nearly as high as a print book?
    No. I think it’s ludicrous to expect (as opposed to prefer) an ebook to be cheaper than a print copy. That said, I think a lot of print books are overpriced. I don’t want to spend twenty-five bucks on a hardcover and I’m sure as hell not going to do it for an ebook.

    8. Would you buy a shorter work for an e-reader? Have you?
    Yes. I have. Novellas and short story collections.

    It’s not always easy to tell how long a book is on an ereader. You can’t look at it and get a feel for the length before you buy it. And when you have it it’s not always easy. Different readers show progress or page counts differently and then you have adjustable font sizes, different screen sizes, etc. Makes it tough to tell.

    9. What would you consider a fair price for a novella or novelette, as defined above?
    Less than a paperback, certainly. Probably no more than 5 dollars.

  30. BCB

    First of all, Mark Terry, if you’re still around, I started reading DANCING IN THE DARK last night, sort of by accident — I was looking at my e-book purchases and thought, What is this? Did I buy this by mistake? Who the heck is Mark Terry and why is that name familiar? Is this the guy from Konrath’s blog? So I started reading a few pages to see whether it was any good and finally about 2:00 just had to stop and take a breath and go to bed. I’m about halfway through and so far I love it! Your Joanna Dancing is smart and wry and tough as hell. What a delight. Please write more of her. Am definitely going to track down your other books once I finish this one.

    Okay, now for JD’s fancy lawyer-type questions:

    1. a) until three weeks ago, then c) when I downloaded Kindle for Mac (it’s FREE).

    2. The ONLY times I buy hardcover are to support a writer/friend or if a writer comes to town for a signing or a workshop. I get HCs from the library all the time. If e-books were same price as HC? I’d wouldn’t buy either — can’t afford it.

    3. If a book were only avail in HC and I couldn’t get it at library, I’d wait for pb or e-b.

    4. Nope, would never buy two versions of a book. But understand, I’m not typical. Ahem. As a reader. I don’t re-read. Even though I end up keeping the vast majority of books I buy, I never re-read them (fiction). Once I know what happens, there’s no point.

    5. It was Alex’s book for writers that lured me into e-reader territory. But again, the "e-reader" was free. It was the realization I could have books RIGHT NOW that led me to buy more and more and more of them. EX: I’d been wanting to read Patrick Lee’s THE BREACH for months, but haven’t had time to go to the bookstore. One little click and there it was. Awesome book, BTW, do not miss it.

    6. Price. [sigh] Okay, I’m answering this one as a reader and trying to forget I’m a writer. I don’t believe all the whitewash about how much e-books cost to produce, as an adjunct to HC. Sorry, just don’t. If I were ONLY able to buy e-books, and for some ungodly reason unable to obtain books any other way, I’d be unhappy if they were all 9.99 and up. I’d express that unhappiness by buying fewer of them. Interestingly, I find myself justifying the purchase of a few in the $10-12 range because they’re offset by the really good ones I’ve bought in the $2-3 range. Yet I wish those low prices would come up just a bit (yes, that was the writer part of me there, but the reader part would be happy to pay more than that. Really.).

    7. I don’t "resent" high priced e-books. I just won’t buy them. No one is forcing me to read. Nor are they stopping me. I have choices. And a budget.

    8-9. Meh. Sure, I’d buy shorter work if it looked fascinating. But length is the primary reason I’ve never read category — I generally want stories to last longer than that.

    I have to say, after having the ability to buy and read e-books for a few weeks now, I firmly believe this market is going to explode. Soon. Honestly, I think it already has. Why? Because it caters to our pervasive impatience and laziness — okay fine, busy-ness. [I tell myself I’m too busy to go to the bookstore, but honestly . . . sometimes it feels more like laziness.] I still love reading a "real" book, the way it feels and smells, and browsing the library or a real bookstore will always be a special and important part of my reading experience. I never fail to graze at the grocery store book display. I love books. Put one I want within my reach, I’m going to buy it. But reading from a screen has become a standard activity for me. Once I’m drawn into the story, I find I’m rather oblivious of how it’s being delivered to my imagination. Just a short month ago, I would not have thought that possible. I expected to hate reading fiction this way. It doesn’t suck.

    I don’t see e-books as a significant alternative to HC or pb. Frankly, I think it’s a big mistake to view it that way. Yet almost everyone does. I know a bunch of savvy readers who love their real books by their favourite writers and will always buy them. They re-read like crazy. I know I’ll still read the same amount of library HCs and still buy the same pbs available in the grocery/book store.

    What has changed for me is that I’m buying stuff in e-book form that I never would have read otherwise. I think e-books are a HUGE new market with new readers who are right now this minute doing something else on the internet. For free. Luring them over to reading fiction instead will hinge on price and convenience and getting their attention. The ball is in the court of those who control those things. If they drop the ball, someone else will pick it up and run with it. Some already have.

    Sorry to be so long-winded. Didn’t realize I had so much to say. I’d edit, but it would get longer . . .

    [Note to self: Next time you write a blog post, put it on your own damn blog.]

  31. JT Ellison

    I’ve asked for a Nook for my birthday, so I’ll be better able to answer this in a few weeks. Thanks for bringing the details to us, Dusty! It’s fascinating!

  32. Ed Marrow

    1. D
    2. same price hard cover
    3. ebook
    4. Signed, Special editions
    5 Yes and No. Cheap books were a draw, but so was the opportuniry to carry a ton of books.
    6. 9.99
    7. Resent, no, but I may not buy it if it wasn’t a must have.
    8. I would, but have not.
    9. If authors are putting their other unpublished works up for 1.99, novellas would probably be for .99. Short story maybe .50-.75

    I agree with Joe Konrath. A low pricepoint will likely yeild more sales.

  33. KC

    I only read print books because I spend 4-10 hours a day writing on my computer and I don’t want to read on one, even in bed.

    Allison, I felt the same way (I’m a copywriter and write unpubbed fiction on the side). But then my husband bought me an iPad for my birthday. And now reading in bed with my iPad is my favoritest thing ever! I can make the print as big as I like (the font size on paperbacks can get a bit tiny). There’s no rustling when I turn pages. And the glow from the screen doesn’t disturb my husband the way the table lamp or book light did. I still plan to purchase print books, but I love the experience of sampling, buying and reading ebooks.

    As for pricing, I’m comfortable with anything under $10 because I’m kind of a tightwad. But I’d pay more for certain authors.

  34. Allison Brennan

    <<As a reader. I don’t re-read. Even though I end up keeping the vast majority of books I buy, I never re-read them (fiction). Once I know what happens, there’s no point.>>

    I don’t re-read, either. Very few books . . . Stephen King’s THE STAND (read the abridged version, then the unabridged); several of King’s short stories; REBECCA (because I was writing an essay on it and needed a refresher); maybe a few others, and recently I’ve been re-reading books with my kids as they study them in school. Recently: Lord of the Flies, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Giver. I’ve been enjoying this because they bring back memories of when I first read them 25-30 years ago (yes, I’m feeling old.)

    NF is different–I often re-read sections for research.

    There are so many books I haven’t read, I don’t like to re-read genre fiction when I know what’s going to happen! But like you, BCB, I like to keep my books because just looking at the cover reminds me of what’s inside and brings back the feelings of that novel.

  35. JA Konrath

    I wish you’d also asked how many people own an iPod, Dusty.

    How long did it take iTunes to begin outselling CDs? Six years?

    We’ll see in six years how many people who said "I only read print books" have changed their minds. I expect half of them, if not more.

    All new tech has a period before it takes hold and the majority embraces it. Much as I love print books (and I do–I have over 5000 of them), ebooks have so many more advantages than print. I expect as the technology becomes cheaper and more widespread, a lot of print only folks are going to change their minds.

  36. gayle

    I have had a Kindle now for a year. I am a voracious reader, buying around 150 books per year. A big part of buying a Kindle was because I am running out of space to put bookshelves. I will continue to buy both e-books and print books. There are some authors that I want to have the book in paper, so I will continue to buy their paper books. I find that I read a lot of authors that are new to me on the Kindle. That way if I really don’t like the book, it won’t be taking up shelf space. If a I know a book is going to be a one time only read, I get the Kindle version. I also share my books with a friend, so if I think it’s one I will loan out, I also get the paper version. I will not pay the same price for a e-book as a hardback. I did get spoiled by the $9.99 prices. I will go a dollar or 2 higher, but nothing over that. Now I just put in on my Kindle wish list and wait for the price to go down. I have enough of a back log to read of both paper and e-books. And yes, I have a few times bought both versions. I don’t do this too often. The last time I did it was for Tawi O’Dell’s latest book. The ebook was only $9.99 and then I waited until I have a 15% off coupon from Barnes & Nobel to buy the hardback version. She is one of the authors that I want a "real" book. So right now I’m probably buying half e-books and half paper. I can see my paper book buy dimishing over time. I didn’t know until reading this post that you had a ebook only version of one of your books out. I’m going to fire up my Kindle and buy it as I have read all of your published books.

  37. Kris

    I was a very early adopter of the Kindle. I have had it for over 2 years now and I can tell you that it has affected the way I purchase books, but not in the ways that publishers might think.

    1. I am more likely to try a new author via e-book, simply because it is usually cheaper and I have only a limited amount of shelf space. I can name at least 10 authors who I now read regularly after discovering their books via my Kindle (often at a cheaper price or free). Many of those authors now have spots on my physical bookshelves, but more on that later.

    2. I still buy plenty of "dead tree" books, both in hard cover and paperback. Paperbacks are reserved for books that I know other family members will want to read, so it’s just more cost effective to buy them that way (assuming that I could wait for the paperback to come out). Hardbacks are usually purchased for signings, collections (I like to have the whole series of books I love in hardback), and collector’s items (such as limited printings, etc). I very rarely will lend out a hardback, so if I have it in h/b, people are on their own with the p/b. But I will buy a hardback of a book that I love, if I read the e-book and feel it needs to be added to my collection. Without a doubt.

    3. The Kindle is not backlit, so it feels much like reading a book to me. I know, nobody believes that until they try. But think about it. When reading, how aware of the fact that you are holding a "book" are you really. In the ideal situation, the physical object disappears during the act of reading, so if the e-book can do that as well, where is the harm. I still love the feel and smell of books, but this is more important in the library (my personal one) as a whole, then when I am actually reading a book. But I will never adopt the Ipad or other backlit devices, because the eye strain would be too much for me. I work on a computer all day, I don’t need that in my free time.

    4. I read quite a bit faster on the e-book as well. I am not sure why this is, but I am sure it has something to do with the ability to set the font size for my optimum, REGARDLESS of the length of the book. We all know that sometimes the type is too small to read at night, but when publishing a print book, there are limits to size for binding, so publishers do the best they can. Here, that problem does not exist. And by my reading faster, someone is selling more books to me.

    5. Finally, there is the search and dictionary features. I have increased my vocabulary (though spelling still remains an issue 😉 because of my Kindle. I can now look up words via one click. You know, those words where you can tell what they mean from context, but it’s nice to know the whole definition. As for the search, I use the e-book sometimes for my bookclub and when someone says "Didn’t character A say she was reading "Rebecca" somewhere in this book", I can search for "Rebecca" and quote the passage in a matter of seconds.

    Not an answer to all you asked, but just a perspective. These two can exist together and in all likelihood, one will help the other and vice versa.

  38. Kim Reis

    I much prefer e-books to paper. I will wait for an e-book if I know it is coming just as others wait for paperback versions. It isn’t the cost as much as the shelf space. I am buried in books and can’t keep bringing more into the house. I love the small reader.

    As for price, I do tend to wait until the price goes down. Since most books were reaching the 9.99 price, I waited until they got there before buying. If the price were higher, I would pay it but I still think e-books should cost less than paper books which require physical materials and warehouse storage.

    I am much more annoyed by the inconsistencies in pricing and release dates. Everyone who prefers paperback books knows that approximately a year after the hardcover release there will probably be a paperback and they know about how much it will cost them. E-book readers have no standards at this time. Some authors/publishers have no e-books, some have delayed release, some have prices that start very high and come down quickly after release. Some never come down in price. I find that all terribly annoying. About the time I break down and buy a hardcover of a favorite author’s new book, the e-book is released. I have been known to use the library to avoid this scenario.

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