Throwback Thursday: The $9.99 e-book boycott

tux-161439_1280Yesterday, I was thinking that since the e-book market has changed so much since its inception, it might be fun to do a Throwback Thursday post about e-books.

A discussion topic for  Throwback Thursday: Do you remember the $9.99 ebook boycott? Back in 2009, when e-book prices started going up, a group of Kindle owners joined together and  started boycotting e-books priced higher than the magic $9.99 mark. (You can read the story behind the boycott here.)

With the advent of agency pricing, publishers began  to set their own prices for e-books and the prices went up.  Since that time, agency has come, gone and then come back again. Now, it is not unusual to see e-books priced at $11.99 to $14.99 and up.

Personally, the $9.99 e-book boycott had a tremendous effect on me. Even today, I still refuse to pay more than $9.99 for a mere license to read a book. The truth is, I don’t really own an e-book, I can’t sell or lend it, it has no first sale rights or value, and even the transfer rights to other  devices are limited.  Convenience in purchasing, immediate gratification and the ability to change font size are not worth the trade-off. I also won’t purchase e-books that cost the same as a physical product.

To me, it is actually sad to see older backlist e-books priced nearly as high as new books:  James A. Michener’s The Source, for example, has been ranging in price from $10.89 to $12.99. The book was first published in 1965. One title presently on my watch list, Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited, is currently selling for over $20. As much as I would like to read it, I really don’t anticipate buying that one in the near future.

Since I am particular about how much I will pay for an e-book, the issue has indeed affected my book buying habits. I read a lot of indie authors who price their books at reasonable prices. I read classics from Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. I check out the free book listings. I watch sales, not only on Amazon, but also on Barnes and Noble and Kobo as well. I I use price watching services like eReaderIQ to track price drops. I have a subscription to Scribd that I use for backlist books that I think are priced too high. As it stands, I usually manage to read 1-2 books a week, plus re-reads and haven’t run out of material yet. 🙂

The $9.99 ebook boycott has fallen out fashion, especially among the Kindle owners who started it. Now, mentioning that e-book prices are too high on the Amazon Kindle Discussion forums is more likely to get you flamed than to see any support for the position. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that everyone has to find a price point that they are comfortable paying. There may be some indications supporting the view that e-book sales are down due to prices.

So what about you? Do you have a cutoff price point for digital books? Have e-books prices affected your books buying habits?  Let me know in the comments.

A Return to Agency Pricing…

money fightSimon and Schuster has reached an agreement with Amazon to return to agency pricing, according to a report from Digital Book World. The deal is to go into effect January 1, 2015  and is said to  apply to both print and e-books. According to the rumored term s, “Amazon’s prerogative to discount the publisher’s ebooks is sharply limited.”  There is no word if this will have any effect on the negotiations between Amazon and Hachette.


Personally, I think this is very disappointing news. As someone who buys a lot of e-books, I still think that most of the Big Publishing House e-books are priced too high, especially many backlist books. I boycott any e-books priced over $9.99 and have had to leave several series unfinished because of pricing issues.  I also reject e-books that are priced as high as their paper versions. IMHO, this is not a move that is good for consumers.

I do predict that this will be good for the subscription services, however, especially if publishers try to return to the $12.99 to $14.99 price points. That monthly fee for Scribd or Oyster or Kindle Unlimited probably just got more attractive.

It is also probably good news for indie authors, at least in the short term. I am not convinced that books are necessarily interchangeable. I think I am somewhat of an anomaly because I am willing to abandon a series based on price or principle.

How do you feel about the news?