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By Thomas Baekdal - December 2011

Pricing: Music vs. ebooks

One argument I hear all the time that ebooks should be priced the same as music and also be part of streaming services like Spotify or Netflix (just for books). I agree. I think it would be great if that happened.

There is just one tiny catch most people don't seem to get. What should that price be? People think the price, for an ebook, should be 99 cents, just like a song. But wait a minute, that's not how artists sell their music. Here is how they do it.

An artist creates an album, sells each song for $1.29, and the full album for $12.99.

As an author, I would be perfectly happy to do the same. That is, sell you each chapter of my books for $1.29 and the full book for $12.99. It makes sense right? Then we, as authors, would sell our content the same way as the music industry.

Unlike artists, authors don't have two revenue streams.

Another problem with comparing music to ebooks is that artists have two revenue streams. One is the music that you buy (or subscribe to), the other, and much more profitable, are the concerts and other performances.

As such, artists can afford to price each song at a low price, because the money comes in via their other venues. One product, two revenue streams - each supporting the other.

Authors only have one revenue stream. As an author, I cannot create live performances. Nobody wants to sit around listening to an author read a book aloud for 18 hours. So, as an author, I have to get the full return of investment from the book sale itself.

Note: Granted, here on, my books are just a part of Baekdal Plus. Like Spotify I offer a subscription, and people can read whatever they like (whenever they like to). Even so, the point is still that each piece of content has to cover the cost of making it.

There is a lot of room for improvement in the book industry. The ebook format itself is completely out of date with our connected society. But, the price is not one of the factors. Sure, it's stupid when publishers charge more for ebooks then the printed ones, but this constant discussion about price is distracting both you, as a reader, and us, as authors, from creating new and better books, new and better formats, and new and better ways to tell a story.


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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