Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Writing Week: Issue 9, Year 5

Do Aussie Publishers Charge too much for ebooks?

I recently looked at a small Australian independent publisher’s website and noticed the high prices they were charging for ebooks: many were $17.99 as compared to the average price of a new bestseller on Amazon of $9.99. I was willing to give a small independent publisher a break: their books would not have the high sales of a bestseller so they would have to charge more to recoup their costs. But then I thought what are the bigger Australian publishers charging?  

First I checked Scribe. Scribe had links on their website to various sellers of their ebooks. An ebook of Machine Man, by Max Barry, cost from $17-$19 on, depending on which independent Australian bookstore you purchased it form. An ibook version cost $18.99, a Google version $12.55, a Kobo version $12.49, it was a whopping $21.00 on, and $9.99 on Amazon.   

I found most Scribe ebooks cost between $9.99 and $14.99 on Amazon. Their ebooks were nearly always much dearer on the other sites, although some were heavily discounted on Google. Ibook ebooks were usually $6-$7 dearer. Overall, only Amazon’s pricing enabled Scribe’s ebooks to be competitively priced on the world stage.

Next I checked UQP (University of Queensland Press).  A statement on their website’s ebook page says they are in the process of displaying prices on their ebooks. That page also had links to three ebooks. Unfortunately, one link lead to an error message on Amazon, another link lead to a paperback version of a book, and the third link lead to a title and author but no pricing information.

UQP’s ebook page does have a link to, where $14.06 was a common price for an ebook. The majority of ebooks on Booku were well over $14.00. The UQP pages says their ebooks are on sale on Amazon and ibooks, but I had a hard time finding any.

Next I checked Freemantle Press. Nearly all their ebooks are available on Amazon, with some on ibooks, and Readings. On Amazon Freemantle Press’ ebooks were priced at around $9.99, on ibooks they were usually $6 more than Amazon. Many of their ebooks were priced at $17.46 on I would suggest the only thing has going for it is its address.

The last Australian Publisher I checked was Random House. They should also do something about their website. For each ebook on their website a high RRP is quoted, but their listed ebook sellers usually sell it for much less. For example, Elliot Pearlmans’s The Street Sweeper was priced at $21.95 on Random House’s website, but if you clicked on the Amazon link it was $12.80. On Google The Street Sweeper was $10.99.

The Random House links to ibooks consistently went just to the store and not the actual ebook. Random House’s ebooks were usually around $9.99 on Amazon. On Google they were usually a few dollars more. All of the prices on the Random House website seem to be the same as the price of that ebook on, generally around $20.
I started my quick survey fearing Australian publishers might be charging too much for their ebooks to compete with overseas publishers. Freemantle Press and Random House seemed to be price competitive on Amazon. But if the ebooks were purchased from any site other than Amazon, the price of Australian Published ebooks seemed too high to compete with overseas publishers.

I was also left wondering how Apple’s ibooks could possibly compete with Amazon’s much cheaper ebooks.   


Anthony J. Langford said...

Australian publishers behind the US? Noooo.... In today's age, they can't afford to be so slack.. no excuse... and also I really don't see why Australians should be paying more.. it's an e-version for God's sake. Stop being greedy and get competitive... ok, so no one can compete with Amazon but by realistic. otherwise buyers will continue to go offshore.. reading is not a charity service... if I want to give money away, I'll do it to someone who really needs it, not publishers... no matter who they are....

Anthony J. Langford said...

You might know them already - ,.....
Australia's specialist epublisher of
Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

Ethan said...

I bought a paperback copy of Scalzi's Old Man's War the other day and it cost me $18. US price (on the jacket flap) was $8. is losing money in their ebook division in order to kill the competition. Their prices are artificially low for that reason. They're also starting to use their leverage on distributors. This is not a good thing for anybody except Amazon. I'm not going to buy from them anymore.

Ethan said...

I should have said "cover" not jacket flap. Oops.

Graham Clements said...

Anthony, I have not heard of Hague publishing, but their first releases are in April.

It might just be the groups I am connected to, but Science Fiction and publishing science fiction seems to be booming in Western Australia, compared to other states.

I will be interested to see what Hauge charge.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Ethan,

I read the article you linked to on infinitas about the large independent publisher in the US pulling all their ebooks from amazon. I hope the big publishers follow if they think they are being squeezed.

But how can independent publishers like the one Max Overton uses: afford to sell their ebooks for $3.99?

Satima Flavell said...

I wonder how many e-books they are selling at those inflated prices? I won't pay more than $4.99 for an ebook - if I had to pay more, I'd pay for hard copy, which is still my preference! I only purchase e-books because they are cheap.

Ethan said...

Graham, I think there's a lot less expense in producing an ebook. No worrying about print runs and returns, no shipping and warehousing costs, and lower middle-man fees. The cost of editing and layout should be the same, but it seems that a lot of places skimp on the cover art (which I think is a mistake).

Webhosting costs would be fairly minimal unless you have a huge volume of traffic, I'd expect.

I think Max has also mentioned that his books have been accepted "as is" by his publishing house, no editing or proofs required, which would significantly cut down on their cost of production.

So I can definitely see how they could make money at $3.99 per ebook, depending on the royalty split and the advance they're paying an author.

Graham Clements said...


I checked out the Writer's Exchange when I saw the low price of Max's ebook. I thought the site might be more of a self-publishing website. But their submission guidelines say all books are edited, provided with cover art, and are marketed and that the author is not charged for those services. Royalties are 50%, much more than the 25% offered by other traditional publishers.

So why do other Aussie publishers charge so much more for their ebooks, to the point of making their ebooks uncompetitive price wise on the world market?

Personally, I would like to see the average price of ebooks around the world being higher if authors benefited.


Graham Clements said...


I am a bit of the reverse in that I am trying not to pay less than $5 for an ebook. This is my stand against the downward spiral in the price of ebooks and the flood of free ebooks that will make it harder for an author to make any money.

But I have not paid over $9 for an ebook so far.