Digital discussions at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair

The biggest book fair in the world, Frankfurt Book Fair, is just days away. This year marks the fair’s 60th anniversary and runs 14-18 October. The fair is one of the most important publishing events of the year as it attracts 7,000 exhibitors from 100 nations who come to negotiate international publishing rights and licensing fees, market new titles, network and, naturally, drink beer.

Watch this short video from the 2008 Frankfurt Book Fair to get a sense of what it’s like:

The convention is the industry’s chance to debate pressing publishing issues and the hot topic this year is e-book prices. E-readers like the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader are becoming increasingly popular, as I mentioned in a previous post. Estimates predict that 3 million e-readers will be sold in the US this year and 10 million sold by the end of 2010. And now, with the Kindle just a week away from being available in 100 countries, e-reading will spread even more. Watch the video below which describes the new international version of Kindle.

Blog Future Perfect Publishing has compiled a helpful list of the factors publishers should consider when pricing a book:

  • Type of book – Non-fiction seems to command different price points than fiction.
  • Goals of the consumer in purchasing it – If the content of the book promises to deliver special value – e.g. increases productivity or convey a new skill – the consumer might be willing to pay more.
  • Quality of presentation – The more professional the design and marketing of the e-book, the better the odds are that a consumer might pay a higher price.
  • Perceived value relative to a print version (if a print version exists) – If the title or author is well known, and the book is available in print at a substantially higher price, a prospective buyer might pay more for the e-book version because the perception of getting good value is heightened.

Readers, too have jumped into the debate, with many refusing to pay more than $10 per book. Wired spoke with Connecticut librarian Crystal O’Brien. “You are not getting something you can lend out to other people, you are not getting a physical item,” says O’Brien. “So you shouldn’t have to pay so much for a digital copy.”

However, publishers have a different idea. The Frankfurt Book Fair conducted a survey of 840 book industry experts on the e-book debate. Their results were surprising: 39 per cent cited online bookselling as the most important development in publishing in the past 60 years. Twenty-five per cent predict that the retail bookseller will be obsolete in 60 years. Concerning pricing, 16 per cent said an e-book should cost at least 30 per cent less than a print book, 19 per cent thought it should cost the same or even more.

Earth Times reports editor of Buchreport Thomas Wilking saying, “The sector is still looking for strategies to make money out of digital content. They need business models that can complement and later replace the well-tried model of selling packages of printed paper for money.”

So what do you think? Do you believe that e-books should adopt the iTunes strategy ($.99 per song) of imposing a consistent price for all books, independent of their genre, quality, author and value of printed version?

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One response to “Digital discussions at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair

  1. Pingback: Why buy when you can borrow? « Reneespeak

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