Do e-books have to be cheaper?

I just came across the pre-order page of Lee Child’s new book, Personal.

As of writing this post the kindle edition costs $19.43, while the hardcover is $16.79. First I was upset. Come on man, the e-book is more expensive than the paper one? Where did you live in the last two years? On the Moon? Everyone knows that e-books are cheap. At least cheaper than paper books. There is no storage and distribution, the shipping cost is zero, and there is no printing cost. So e-books ARE cheaper.

But let me rephrase it: the production of e-books is cheaper. At least this is what I have heard from people who know what they are talking about.

Does it mean that the sales price of e-books has to be lower?

No.

I hear the crowd of readers groaning. Shut up and go to the corner, bad boy!

Let’s think with the hat of an author on. Imagine that we are famous, have dozens of bestsellers published and we have a huge fan base. Our book is just coming out. Why would we price it lower if our fans can hardly wait to read it and would pay any price. OK, within reasonable limits.

Now let’s put our reader hat on. We are avid e-book readers, haven’t bought a paper book since the “revolution” started. The Author is our favorite, and we can hardly wait for his new book to come out. Why would we care about the price of the paper book? We are not going to buy it, we are into the kindle version. So we click on the Buy now button and we’re happily reading the new adventure of our favorite hero.

Except. This is where the reading value comes into the picture. I wrote a post about it earlier, I won’t repeat it here. The thing is that the price would make me think. Should I buy the book for twenty bucks? I have a reading list thiiiiiiiiiiiis long. I’m not talking about the indie books that new authors throw at me for free or for $0.99. I have bestsellers on my list. I’m at book five of the Harry Bosch series, and I still haven’t read all of the Brandon Sanderson books or The Wheel of Time series. Just for example. So, should I bother to buy this new book? Maybe I could wait a few months until the price goes down. I may consider listening to the whisper of my purse and save that money. Or I may say oh, what the hell!  and clickety click on the Buy it quickly now button.

I’m sure that lot of people won’t wait, because curiosity and wanting to be entertained is human nature. Hard to resists. Lee Child will sell a ton of e-books at this price. He deserves it, he is a fine writer. So why would he sell the kindle version for less?
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