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Infographic: what's the cheapest eBook format?

Kindle with Books

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 15 Jun 2011 at 08:52

Amazon is selling more digital books than paper copies, but are consumers getting a good deal?

While sales of eBooks and readers such as the Kindle continue to soar, customers have complained that digital versions of books aren't as cheap as they expected - sometimes as much as hardback copies.

Part of that is down to an agency pricing model, in which publishers set the price, not retailers such as Amazon.

However, the system is under fire, with the Office of Fair Trading and EU regulators investigating how prices of eBooks are being controlled.

We surveyed the prices of the top 40 books on The Sunday Times' bestsellers list to find out if Kindle, ePub, iBook or plain old paper was the cheapest format.

Click to enlarge:

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User comments

The Cheapest way....walk down to your local library and take a book out there. No Charge.
Well apart from the fact that your already paying for the service in your council tax!

By Jaberwocky on 15 Jun 2011

Walk??!

No, the cheapest way is to log on to your local library and borrow an ebook. Saves on the shoe leather. My local library (London Borough of Havering) is slowly building up a decent e-collection. Often books I want are out on loan, but I just reserve and they let me know by e-mail when it's back in. You have 3 weeks to read a book... Fantastic service

By russweb on 15 Jun 2011

Kindle winner!

Quite interesting that if you sum where the Kindle was cheaper, or the same cheaper as other ebook sellers, it get 66.7% of the books cheaper than paper. If that isn't a win for Kindle I don't know what is!

By MJ2010 on 15 Jun 2011

@MJ2010

Don't you find it hugely disappointing that a few kB of data is similarly priced to a paper book. Personally I would always expect to pay substantially less for an eBook.

By tirons1 on 15 Jun 2011

Strange Expectations

Morally, e-books should always be cheaper than paper books, because of the obvious differences in production costs. But our system is not run on morals. As with everything, publishers will charge what they think they can get people to pay. I am not at all surprised to see some e-books being more expensive than paper ones, it's a relatively wealthy market to tap into (at least for now). But even if we ignore economics and consider the moral argument, it is important to remember what we are buying. Yes, to some extent, we are buying a bundle of paper or an electronic file. But it's the content we're really interested in. We're paying for the intellectual property and the publishing structure that surrounds it much more than the format it is produced on. I suspect the difference in publishing method actually doesn't make much difference, certainly the difference in production costs between a hardback and softback is small, what you pay for with a hardback is purely advanced access, which can be a high premium indeed. I find it worrying how easily people forget that behind every book (or song, or film) are people who have spent a long time working on it.

By Peter_Tennant on 15 Jun 2011

4 "missing" books

Of the 4 titles not available as eBooks, 3 rely heavily on colour photography for content. Not all book types are necessarily suited to e-publication.

By milliganp on 15 Jun 2011

I'm happy

I have a Kindle and find that all the books I have bought have been cheaper than their paperback counter parts. And that's with VAT stuck on top. Remember, it's the intellectual (not always the case) part that you are paying most of the cost for, not the physical print. It's the same with software.

By Steve_Adey on 15 Jun 2011

@russweb - I find it so amusing that an eBook can be "out on loan". I understand the library only gets a licence to lend it to one person at a time, but nevertheless it is rather bizarre!

By flyingbadger on 15 Jun 2011

You could always try Project Gutenberg if the book is more than 50 years old:

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

By lokash20 on 15 Jun 2011

...

According to US copyright law, that is.

By lokash20 on 15 Jun 2011

Strange Expectations

Morally, e-books should always be cheaper than paper books, because of the obvious differences in production costs. But our system is not run on morals. As with everything, publishers will charge what they think they can get people to pay. I am not at all surprised to see some e-books being more expensive than paper ones, it's a relatively wealthy market to tap into (at least for now). But even if we ignore economics and consider the moral argument, it is important to remember what we are buying. Yes, to some extent, we are buying a bundle of paper or an electronic file. But it's the content we're really interested in. We're paying for the intellectual property and the publishing structure that surrounds it much more than the format it is produced on. I suspect the difference in publishing method actually doesn't make much difference, certainly the difference in production costs between a hardback and softback is small, what you pay for with a hardback is purely advanced access, which can be a high premium indeed. I find it worrying how easily people forget that behind every book (or song, or film) are people who have spent a long time working on it.

By Peter_Tennant on 15 Jun 2011

Whoops!

Apologies for double posting, my phone reloaded the webpage many hours later, and in doing so reposted my message. I would delete the second entry, but I can't...

By Peter_Tennant on 15 Jun 2011

"Don't you find it hugely disappointing that a few kB of data is similarly priced to a paper book"

And of course, the eBook just magics itself into existence.

By Lacrobat on 15 Jun 2011

Pure greed

Ok, here we go again. There are tons of websites that show the breakdown of book cost, and yet people still fall for this. Now look at these figures:

Royalties, i.e. the actual creation of the content typically 8-15% (let's say 10% on average).

Publisher costs: Pre-production (editing, proof reading, cover art / illustrations, marketing) + Royalties + Printing (10% of the book price) + Publisher Profit = around 40-50% of the book price.

Remaining 50-60% is swallowed by Distributors & Retailers (warehousing, packing, shipping, inventory, shelf space, staff, returned books, etc).

So more than 50% of the paper book cost doesn't even apply to e-books, and some people still try and justify the identical prices.

By Lomskij on 16 Jun 2011

Pricing...

Lomskij -
Don't forget that every eBook attracts VAT at 20%, where paper books are VAT-free. In the light of that bizarre inconsistency I think it's a more than little unfair to label the big eBook retailers greedy. In fact, I think it's remarkable that eBooks are as cheap as they are right now.

Jonathan Bray,
Reviews editor,
PC Pro.

By JonBray on 16 Jun 2011

Are you serious?

@Lomskij

'So more than 50% of the paper book cost doesn't even apply to e-books'

So you think that all the hardware, infrastructure and software that is needed for electronic distribution comes for free?
Interesting...

By Steve_Adey on 16 Jun 2011

ebook copies of older titles require a lot of additional work

Anything pre-dating the computer based word processor (even if typed on a computer originally it may still need converting into a distributable format) needs digitising.

The fact is that a lot of these 'more expensive' books will have to have been physically scanned in and proof read for errors, converted into a format suitable for different screen sizes and capabilities. That is in addition to the previously mentioned hosting and infrastructure costs.

While I have some classics as ebooks from Gutenberg Project I still much prefer to read a paper version.

As for the library loan copy being 'out' at least it carries on with tradition lol.

By mr_chips on 17 Jun 2011

Almost no one steals library books

Well, almost no one - and I'm talking outside the libary. But Kindles do get stolen. And while I think a thief can be prevented from buying new books for a stolen machine, that doesn't get the machine back.

In any case, I prefer to read the paper version.

By genegold on 18 Jun 2011

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