There’s a report in The Guardian today about ebook prices, noting that Sony has been offering numerous titles for as little as 20p (the report is from the UK perspective) and that Amazon has been price-matching relevant titles as a result. While some authors are happy to trade high prices for larger sales volumes, it’s clear that there’s a danger of 20p (which is about 32 cents) eventually being seen as the new norm.
It seems pretty obvious that if a product is regularly sold at a certain low price, then that price will start to be seen as the ‘regular’ price rather than the discount price. The Guardian article only mentions a handful of titles, so it’s not as if prices are dropping across the board, but consumer perceptions could still be influenced. As the article points out, mainstream authors are receiving full royalties for their titles based on the price they should be selling for, so it’s Amazon and Sony who are effectively subsidising the low prices.
It’s pretty clear that most authors, whether they’re traditionally published or self-published, can’t survive in a market where full-length, popular novels are being sold for 20p apiece. It’s also clear that Amazon and Sony don’t have bottomless pockets and at some point the price war has to come to an end, or at least a pause. For now though, those 20p ebooks threaten to make even the 99 cent price point seem expensive.