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Big Ideas. Short Books.

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Founded by Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book

Price vs. value: what is an eBook worth?

Paying attention to detailWhen you say, “What is an eBook worth?” are you asking what the price of an eBook should be. Or are you posing the question: what is the value you get from downloading and reading an eBook? Aha. Two different things, right?

Let’s look at value from two different perspectives: that of the author and that of the reader. The author tends to think his or her book (e- or print, it doesn’t matter) is worth a lot. Heck, I’ve written a book myself (200-plus pages) and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. That’s worth a lot, isn’t it?

Two different perspectives: author vs. reader

Maybe. It depends on two things. The first is what value the reader will get out of the book. If it’s a business book, it’s possible the value could be thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased revenues (or cost savings or time saved) derived from the author’s insights and tips. It’s a nice extra if the book is well written and fun to read. Or the value could be a big fat zero because your content is timeworn, too general and not useful. Perhaps the book is poorly written or edited, to boot.

So we can agree that if your eBook is packed with inspirational, actionable content and is a seamless reading experience, then it’s valuable.

What does the marketplace say?

But there is a second factor. What price does the marketplace say is acceptable for the digital, downloadable edition of a book? Amazon sets the price of Kindle Singles (short eBooks chosen and published by Amazon) from $.99 to $2.99. Many self-published nonfiction eBooks on Amazon are $2.99 or $3.99. You’ll see eBook prices that are a lot higher (as much as $18.99) but that’s because the eBook is published by a major publishing house and they are betting the author is well enough known that readers will pay a high price for instant access to the book.

Lowering the barrier to downloading your book

A third way to think about the price is to make the barrier as low as possible for getting your eBook into as many readers’ hands as possible. If you’re a first-time author and your genre is nonfiction/ business, that may be the biggest value for you. Seth Godin (and others) have written a lot about the economics of self-publishing. As Seth puts it,

“… for more and more authors, the book is a calling card. It leads to a movie deal or a speaking gig, or another book contract, or consulting, or respect, or a better class of cocktail party. Which means that the true margin on each book is more of these external benefits, not the dollar or three made on each copy.” –  Seth Godin

So if you’re an up-and-coming business author who is self publishing, stop and think about value from every perspective, especially the long-term ROI for yourself, before you slap a high price on your eBook.

What are your thoughts on how to price a short eBook on a nonfiction / business topic? We’d love to hear.


From Winning Edits: What is the Future of eBook Pricing Models (in Three Words)

Creative Commons License Nic McPhee via Compfight

  • Jennifer Bailey

    Thanks for bringing up the longer term ROI from an eBook. I can certainly see the possibility of the eBook itself not being a significant moneymaker, but rather opening doors to avenues that are.

    • Debbie Weil


      I am specifically referring to a specific type of book – a short eBook on a business topic or theme that relates to your business career, whether you’re a solopreneur or in a corporate suite or cubicle. The book should still be wonderful. That is my personal bias because I think good books are so important. But it does require reframing how you think about selling the book.

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