Blog Poll: What is the Most You Are Willing to Pay for an eBook? Why?

I thought I would run a little informal poll here on the blog – What’s the most you’ll pay for an ebook? For me that limit is $9.99 but its arbitrary, so I’m curious, what’s your limit? If you feel like it, please leave a comment with your limit and why you chose that limit.

Edited/Added for clarification: I’ll pay more than $9.99 for textbooks. Even though I am grumpy that I can’t sell them back at the end of the semester it is worth it not to have to deal with a heavy book that wont stay open and tiny print. Plus the highlighting options are super-freaking awesome! That said I do stick to my limit for $9.99 for other books since I don’t outright own it (can’t loan it, can’t sell it, can’t donate it) I feel that it should cost less than the hardback and not $2.00 less such as Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn and of course there are examples where the ebook is more than print, again if I owned it and was not denied my rights it would be a different story.
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35 comments for “Blog Poll: What is the Most You Are Willing to Pay for an eBook? Why?

  1. November 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    I selected the highest price even though I rarely pay over $7.99 for an ebook. I know from past experience that there will always be books I want to own that are written for a very niche audience and, ironically, these are often books that take the most time and effort to create.

    For books like that, I do not mind spending more to ensure the author feels the love and is encouraged to keep up the good work.

    In general, I expect to pay – at most – 30-40% of the cost of the hardback when I buy a new mainstream book at the time of publishing.

    • Anne
      November 2, 2011 at 5:07 am

      I can’t share, lend, resell or give away an ebook so I don’t feel any ownership of it. I’m just licensed to use it. It’s a loan by another name. I’m not willing to pay much for such limited privileges. As things stand, if a book is a keeper then I will continue to want to own it, and that means a hard copy. If I want something different from my reading experience then I go to the library and the ebook will have compete on price and convenience with that. Of course, if the current stalemate continues, libraries may not be able to offer a competitive loan service.

  2. November 1, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I would be willing to pay as much as I would for a conventional printed copy under TWO conditions:
    1) That I can read my book in any device I own and choose, in any format I choose (that is, no DRM)
    2) and that there is a way to assure that the digital copy I purchase is mine, that I can keep for as long as I deem necessary and I can either donate or resell.

    • Cathy H
      November 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm

      Exactly! To pay the cost of a hardback for something I’m leasing, is just wrong. If more of the public realized that they didn’t own their ebooks, they might not pay the prices, either.

    • November 1, 2011 at 3:58 pm

      Exactly! I’d happily pay hardback price for ebooks IF I owned my digital content outright. I’ve set my limit at $9.99 (with the exception of textbooks) because I’m ok with pay for convenience etc. but given that I am being denied my rights to digital content I’m not willing to pay the higher prices.

  3. Jessica
    November 1, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    It varies. I’ll happily pay for textbooks as long as they are still 10 to 15% less than their print counterparts

    And since I’ve spent most of my reading life buying hardcovers on the first day they are released I don’t mind spending $13 or so for a brand new fiction book if it means I have it on Tuesday morning when I turn on the wifi

    • November 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm

      I should have excluded textbooks in this. I pay higher for texbooks because, even though it peeves me that I can’t sell them back, the highlighting and note-taking options are totally worth it. Not to mention not having to lug around a huge book with tiny print that won’t stay open on its own! :-)

  4. November 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I picked the highest price available, though I’ve never actually spent that, because the issue is really the value of the content and not the format of the book. I’m not a big fan of e-books, but if I need the information and that’s the quickest or most convenient or only way to get it, I’m not going to draw an arbitrary line. In my field, a lot of physical books run $100 or more, so an e-book version for $30 would be a very economical alternative.

    • November 1, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      Well said Tiffany. That is what I was trying to say as well, but you, as usual, did it better. :)

    • November 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm

      yep I should have indicated that I was looking for a baseline for fiction and regular nonfiction, not textbook or specialty books. I pay more for those too.

      • November 2, 2011 at 9:08 am

        That changes my answer considerably–the only scenario I can think of in which I’d buy fiction or lighter non-fiction in e-book format would be that it didn’t exist in hard copy or that I absolutely needed immediate access to it and couldn’t obtain it locally. But that’s really a matter of personal preference, not value.

  5. Debbie Rzepczynski
    November 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I chose the highest price because I pay about $100 each year in property taxes to my library & then I can get all the eBooks I want! Otherwise, I wouldn’t pay a dime for an eBook!

    • November 1, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      I think you should have picked lower. At $100 a year that is $8.33 a month IF you only read one ebook per month. If you read two you’re looking at $4.16, three a month, a mere $2.77. :-)

  6. James
    November 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I find as the cost of the e-book rises the chances of some person no relation to me pirating said book increases exponentially.

    • November 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm

      James I’ve noticed the same thing. People don’t pirate because they are evil they pirate because they see no reasonable option for them. Just a different type of supply and demand I guess.

      • November 2, 2011 at 9:09 am

        That’s an interesting view. Do you think people shoplift expensive hard copy books because they “see no reasonable option”?

        • November 3, 2011 at 7:41 am

          Tiffany, While I do understand the comparison of ebook to print in this case it doesn’t actually work. For many reasons people don’t equate pirating with stealing (I’m not getting into whether not it is right or wrong just explaining as best I can) When you take a physical copy of something you are removing it from the store, the store no longer has it. When you download a digital copy the original is still there. You have not stolen anything. The argument is that if you hadn’t downloaded a pirated copy you would have purchased the item outright. But that’s a leap. You can’t assume every time a file is pirated that a sale is lost.

          Additionally there are studies that indicate that pirating increases sales of books.

  7. November 1, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I picked $9.99. I’d actually prefer to pay significantly less because there’s no physical product involved, but I understand that people do need to get paid for their efforts. But even so, I can’t see paying more than $9.99.

  8. November 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    I chose the highest price because I’m currently a huge, crazy fan of The Fold series, which is available more or less in e-format only (the first one is currently free, here: and I’ll pay practically anything he asks for the next book. That’s a very rare case, though; generally, I balk after about $3.99, and a $7.99+ book has to have truly wonderful sample pages to get my money.

  9. November 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    If the book isn’t something I can pass down to my children and grandchildren (that will likely not happen with aged/corrupt/etc digital files incompatible with changing format readers), then I’m not paying more than $5.00. Doubtful I’d pay more than $3.00, truthfully.
    *In terms of personal collection- not in terms of library collection development. Whole other can o’worms, there.

  10. svm
    November 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I picked $9.99 because I know I’d probably balk once it hit $10, but I think my real answer is, “it depends…”

    • November 1, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      Very true. With the exception of textbooks I’ve drawn a hard line at $9.99. But I have about 20 books on my wishlist that are over this amount. I’m just not willing to pay over $9.99 when I’m being denied my rights.

  11. November 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Though I generally pay $9.99 or less for an ebook, there have been times that I’ve paid more — so I voted for the highest category. Most recently, I paid $14.99 to pre-order 1Q84 on my Kindle. I’m a huge fan of Haruki Murakami, and the book is 944 pages — there’s no way I’d lug that giant book around on my commute. Additionally, every book I’ve pre-ordered on my Kindle has been available for me to download just after midnight the day of its release — which is great for when I need immediate satisfaction on a highly anticipated item (e.g. Mockingjay).

  12. November 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I selected 9.99 with, like you, the caveat that there are exceptions.

    I feel strongly that I do not own ebooks. Of course you know all about the license/own thing… This means that there are several use restrictions that are notable to me:

    * I can’t loan, give away, or resell the book when I’m done

    * I’m dependent on one or more companies — the one that sold me the book, Adobe Digital Editions, anyone who sells or services ereaders, etc. — remaining in business in order to continue to access the book (with rare exceptions — thanks, O’Reilly!)

    * I am limited in how I can read the book — I can read Nook, Google, and Kindle books via apps, but I have to remember which one I bought it through

    * The book cannot be an object of serendipity on my shelves for Ms4 — maybe children of the future will serendipitously browse books in apps, yet I doubt that will be a big thing; the silent, small, and hidden world of electrons does not promote the same kind of book-browsing serendipity through which Carolyn Keene and Isaac Asimov accosted little-me from the shelves

    All of these things have actual value for me and, as I generally cannot do them with ebooks, I deduct what I am willing to pay accordingly. Why would I pay as much for an object of less value?

    • November 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      (It’s worth noting that I will pay, and have paid, significantly more than $9.99 for O’Reilly ebooks.)

    • November 2, 2011 at 7:37 am

      well said!

  13. Liz
    November 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    I haven’t spent more than £4.49 (uk). I still feel a bit guilty buying an e-version so it needs to be cheaper than a print version.

  14. November 2, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Generally anything over $9.99 for a regular fiction title seems too much for me given the restrictions of DRM. But I’ll make exceptions in some cases. If the book is, say, 1000 pages then it’s so much easier to carry my Kindle on the bus than the physical copy. So suddenly the increased advantages of the e-format are worth more to me and I’ll pretty happily pay some more for that.

    I also won’t ever pay more than the print price. If DRM were removed I might reconsider that restriction.

  15. LibrarianMom
    November 2, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Will only pay $7.99 (and haven’t even paid that yet) because I can’t lend the book or even give it away when I’m done. So far, I’ve only downloaded free books or those that are less than $3.

  16. November 2, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I would pay <$5 for regular books*, if they have DRM. I would maybe pay $19.99 for a textbook with DRM. I just don't see why I should pay more for a digital object that can't be transferred to another, future, device, or given or sold to someone else.

    DRM'd files are just rental agreements in the long run.

    I am wondering what's going to happen in the future when kindle is discontinued or changed so substantially that the original ebooks won't work – will there be a backlash?

    For what it's worth, normal people that I talk to (people who are not in the library, media, or tech world), don't care about the DRM on their kindle files. They would like to pay less, but overall LOVE the convenience of ebooks and ereaders.

    *O'Reilly books are an exception – you get DRM-free files in PDF – downloadable to multiple devices – very good value

  17. Holly
    November 2, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I prefer to pay no more than 9.99, though I’ve made exceptions for just released bestsellers by my favorite authors (I consider anything above that a convenience fee for buying it on day of publication). And while I’d certainly prefer a world without DRM, until then, that’s what Calibre and its helpful extensionss are for. :)

  18. November 2, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Usually not over £1.99 (around $3.20), but I will break this occasionally – I’ve just paid £7.69 (about $12) for the new P D James, due to the need to read it NOW (£15 for the hard copy in my local bookshop).

    My general rule is ‘not more than I’d pay for a 2nd-hand copy’, as this is really the demographic of book buying that I’ve replaced by going kindle. I agree with the other comments – it’s not really *buying* a book so much as paying-a-fee-to-borrow-it-for-a-while. If/when amazon introduce kindle lending in the UK, expect my ‘willing-to-pay’ figure to go down.

    I will happily pay a bit more for DRM-free. As a sci-fi fan I was delighted to discover Baen’s ebooks store – as well as the free library, (, many of their books are available as DRM-free, multi-format ebooks for $4-$6.

    The average price I’ve paid for kindle books? $0. I estimate that I have around 600 Project Gutenberg books on there. I do love the convenience of being able to buy in-copyright books, but honestly? I’d probably still be super-delighted with my e-reader if it was public domain content only. Maybe I should have waited for PG or the Internet Archive to produce one pre-loaded with all their material!

    (Amanda C Davis – thanks for the tip on The Fold series! Just downloaded Book 1)

  19. Janet Vandenabeele
    November 14, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    For most popular titles, the price should never be more than $9.99. I realize some textbooks or technical works or other niche titles can and should be able to cost more. But the trend of ebooks topping $12.99 (or about half or more of their full hardcover price) is a little disturbing. There’s nowhere near the same production, storage and shipping charges for an ebook that there are for dead tree books. Ebooks have got to be helping publisher’s margins relative to dead tree books and they should be nurturing that market, not exploiting it out of existence.

  20. M.Artis
    April 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Because I surrounded by free books to checkout for extended periods of time within my academic library I’m willing to pay up to $3.00 max a month. To be honest I guess I’m a little old school. I rather have the paper or hard back copy in my hand with a bookmark. The downloading of ebooks can get very expensive for materials that can’t be passed on.

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