Kindle or Swindle? The Great Kindle Pricing Debate.

Since moving to West Africa to spend more time with my keyboard (not that my co-author says she has noticed any difference in output!) life has been unreal.

Wall to wall sunshine, the most beautiful girls in the world, a life of abject laziness, fresh peanuts, peace, tranquillity and living expenses to die for.  It’s like going on your dream holiday, and the fourteen days never end!

But just like on that dream holiday, you can never take enough books with you. Which is where the Amazon Kindle ought to come into its own.

Of course, no-one told me Amazon don’t do downloads to “Africa”!  So much for their “read anywhere” claim…

Fortunately there are ways around that.

there are no easy ways around the Kindle pricing system. And while there are plenty of absolute bargains to be had (fear not, I wouldn’t be so opportunist as to slip in a mention here of our ground-breaking crime-thriller Sugar & Spice, under the Saffina Desforges brand, at number ten in the Kindle thriller charts at the time of writing)  there are also plenty of e-books with far more daunting price tags.

So when does Kindle become a swindle?

Yesterday I picked up Bill Bryson’s A Short History Of Nearly Everything in a very tatty paperback edition that had somehow found its way the 3000 miles from England to the Smiling Coast of Africa. And notwithstanding I’ve read it several times already, I couldn’t resist grabbing it again.

Now I’m a huge Bryson fan, and would read a cigarette packet if it had his by-line on it, but out of curiosity I wondered how the price for the paperback in the UK compared to the Kindle edition.

Well, the Kindle edition kicks in at £5.70. The paperback? £8.99.

So the Kindle edition is 63% of the cost of the printed edition.  How can they possibly justify that?

The paperback is a whopping 688 pages. And every single one worth its weight in gold to me as a reader. But…

There are no paper costs. No ink costs. No printing costs. No warehouse and delivery costs, no wholesale and retail overheads, etc, etc.

So just who is making the money from the big price for big names on Kindle?

Hopefully the authors are getting a fair return. But what’s the betting the agents and publishers who promoted the books in dead-tree format are also now reaping their rewards for no extra work?

And rightly so, you might argue, but is it fair on the punter to charge so much?

I think not.

I predicted on a recent blog that, over the next year, e-book prices will go through some experimental trials and by Christmas 2011 will stabilise somewhere around the two-to-three pound mark for the big names, while the indie authors and the new writers will still keep their charge as low as they can.

That seems the only sensible way forward.

But meantime, while we can all enjoy new and indie authors for mere pennies, keeping up with our old favourites becomes less and less a joy and more and more a chore.

Sorry, Bill, but for £5.70 I want real paper, real ink and the texture and smell of a real book. If I’ve got five pounds to spend in the Amazon Kindle store I’ll buy five books from new and indie authors and come away with change.

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