e-book prices

September 14, 2012

Question:  How much does a library e-book cost?

  • About the same as a consumer e-book from Amazon or B & N around $10 bucks
  • A little bit more because it’s the library around the cost of a hardback book $30 bucks
  • Around the cost of buying a concert or sporting event ticket from a scalper or some other back alley guy who can charge pretty much any amount they want because they’ve got you over a barrel.

I’ll bet most people who don’t work at the library would choose the first answer.  Library folks might choose the second more often than not.  And a few would choose the 3rd option because otherwise what would be the point of writing this post.

So which one is the right answer?

All of them.

How is this possible?   Because when it comes to digital copies of their titles publishers tend to price things all over the map.   And  of course pricing can change at the drop of a hat.   Yesterday, OverDrive announced that Hachette Book Group will be changing it’s pricing model.

“Hachette will be raising its eBook prices on October 1, 2012 on their currently available eBook catalog (~3,500 eBook titles with release dates of April 2010 and earlier). On average prices will increase 220%. ”

Let’s look at an example.

What Hachette and Barnes & Noble charge you and me $8.99

What Hachette and OverDrive charge libraries today $27.99

What Hachette and OverDrive will charge libraries after September 30th $89.99

What shouldn’t be lost in all of this is that other e-book vendors are going to charge exactly the same or about the same price as OverDrive does for Hachette titles.  We buy all of our e-books from OverDrive so I can’t verify that by looking elsewhere.  And there are plenty of other publishers who aren’t charging these kinds of prices, so I don’t want to paint all e-book publishers with the same brush.  Nor should Mr. Patterson take the heat for what his publisher decides to charge libraries.

So, we’re curious what do you think about prices in general?  And also what should libraries do?


5 Responses to “e-book prices”

  1. Stuart Says:

    Q: What is the ALA doing to bargain these prices down? What I would suspect is that these people figure libraries are a captive sort of market and helpless to do anything about being gouged. Is there anyone arguing for a more reasonable rate scheme?

  2. Jim McCluskey Says:

    ALA is working with publishers to find a pricing and business model that makes more sense for libraries, but it’s a very slow process. There are several major publishers who won’t sell or license ebooks to libraries at all. It’s a very unpredictable marketplace right now, with some publishers pulling out of the library market and others raising their prices, there is a lot of work to be done before this is all over.

  3. Darren Says:

    Thank you for posting this and getting the word out!

    The situation reminds me of when we used to get charged over $100 for a blockbuster VHS less than 6 mo. or so old. Sometimes we (was in Kansas City then) bought fewer copies or just waited, thinking people could go rent the titles for immediate access. But now we have a huge discrepancy – We’ll have to pay $90 to save the individual $9 instead of paying $15 to save them $20-25 as the case with a typical print bestseller book.

    As far as what to do about it, we could get only a few copies out of semi-protest and for responsible budget balance, and when customers complain about the wait time educate them about the situation, maybe providing a contact link for feedback to publishers. One consolation is we will have those few e copies indefinitely and they can’t be lost/damaged, I suppose. Can we take a page out of Google’s book? When they were threatened with the SOPA anti-piracy legislation, they blanketed their site with information and successfully got Congress to back off. There are differences but there might be a lesson there?

  4. Terry Beck Says:

    Our reference ebook supplier has a much more sane and reasonable approach to this. And we’ve gotten some great discounts from them. The best is that we’re able to get things that OverDrive cannot supply.
    Loved your visual on this post, Jim!

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