I am a proud Kindle owner. I love my Kindle and try to buy books in an electronic format whenever I can. However, I am in a bit of a quandry. You see; I won’t buy a Kindle e-book if it’s more expensive than the paperback plus P&P. For example, I recently considered buying One Day, by David Nicholls but one look at the price list had me in severe confusion. How is it that a £9.99 hardback, which is only £3.99 in paperback manages to cost you £6.49 in Kindle format, despite being a 564KB file? Even the most expensive 3G data contract I can find suggests that the bandwidth cost for that book is a mere 28 pence. I can’t imagine the Kindle format book had anywhere near enough effort put into it to warrant the price hike; nor can I imagine that the publisher never found the 70% cut option when uploading the book.
Therefore I can only assume that you Amazon, as the distributor and retail outlet, are not trying to explain to publishers that e-books are intrinsically of lower value than paperback books due to their severe restrictions and thus that they really shouldn’t be more expensive than a paperback book.
If I buy the paperback, I can read it, then lend it to a friend who can read it before returning it to me; and I can do that as many times as I like. Myself and my partner can both read the same book, using visually different bookmarks, and, perhaps most importantly, there’s nothing you nor the publisher nor the author can do to stop me doing this. Yet if I buy a Kindle e-book, only I can read it, on my device. I can’t lend the book to a friend without lending them my entire Kindle which stops me from reading my other books in the meantime; and I cannot share the book with my partner because not only does it exclude me from the rest of my bookshelf in the meantime; but the device isn’t really designed to allow that.
Given all that, you really should be displaying big scary warnings on any Kindle book page where the paperback (or hardback) is cheaper than the Kindle book. If the publishers are refusing to understand that an electronic copy, with the restrictions you put on them, is less valuable; then it falls to you as the distributor and retailer to protect your customers.
Also, I believe there’s a feature where you say “Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited” on your Kindle pages. This appears to imply that the e-book is DRM free, making it possible for me to let my partner read a copy, or allow a friend to read the book. Why not make a point of highlighting such books in a way which gives them more advertising on your page. Make yourselves look better to your customers and encourage publishers to allow a wider use of their e-books.
I assume that you are familiar with the Lost Book Sales website and that you actually care about losing money because your platform is being misunderstood and mistreated by your suppliers (publishers).
Oh and while I am at it; Dear Gov’mint, please drop the idiotic VAT on e-books; or else add VAT to real books. Kthxbye.