Future iBook pricing

Apple's iPad iBook app (from Apple.com)
Apple's iPad iBook app (from Apple.com)

All the news about iPad and iBooks app got me thinking. There’s been much discussion on e-book pricing but no one is looking at what to charge for items other than books.  I look at this as something like what happened to albums when iTunes came out.  Individual songs were now available without having to buy the whole album.

As such, I started to consider what iBooks should charge for items outside of books.  Specifically,

  • Poems – no reason the iBooks app should not offer poems as well as books but what’s a reasonable price for a poem.  I believe Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within used to charge $0.25 per poem.  So this is a useful lower bound, however considering inflation (and assuming $0.25 was 1976 pricing), in today’s prices this would be closer to $1.66.  With iBooks app’s published commission rate (33% for Apple) future poets would walk away with $1.11 per poem.
  • Haiku – As a short form poem I would argue that a Haiku should cost less than a poem.  So, maybe $0.99 per haiku,would be a reasonable price.
  • Short stories – As a short form book pricing for short stories needs to be somehow proportional to normal e-book pricing.  A typical book has about 10 chapters and as such, it might be reasonable to consider a short story as equal to a chapter.  So maybe 1/10th the price of an e-book is reasonable.  With the prices being discussed for books this would be roughly the price we set for poems.  No doubt incurring the wrath of poets forevermore, I  am willing to say this undercuts the worth of short stories and would suggest something more on the order of $2.49 for a short story.  (Poets please forgive my transgression.)
  • Comic books – Comic books seem close to short stories and with their color graphics would do well on the iPad.  It seems to me that these might be priced somewhere in between short stories and poems,  perhaps at $1.99 each.
  • Magazine articles – I see no reason that magazine articles shouldn’t be offered as well as short stories outside the magazine itself. Once again, color graphics found in most high end magazines should do well on the iPad.  I would assume pricing similar to short stories would make sense here.

University presses, the prime outlet for short stories today, seem similar to small record labels.  Of course,  the iBooks app could easily offer to sell their production as e-books in addition to selling their stories separately. Similar considerations apply to poetry publishers. Selling poems and short stories outside of book form might provide more exposure for the authors/poets and in the long run, more revenue for them and their publishers.  But record companies will attest that your results may vary.

Regarding magazine articles and comic books there seems to be a dependance on advertising revenue that may suffer from iBook publishing.  This could be dealt with by incorporating publisher advertisements in iBook displays of an article or comic book.   However, significant advertisement revenue comes from ads placed outside of articles, such as in back matter, around the table of contents, in-between articles, etc.  This will need to change with the transition to e-articles – revenues may suffer.

Nonetheless, all these industries can continue to do what they do today.  Record companies still exist, perhaps not doing as well as before iTunes, but they still sell CDs.  So there is life after iTunes/iBooks, but one things for certain – it’s different.

Probably missing whole categories of items that could be separated from book form as sold today,  But in my view, anything that could be offered separately probably will be.  Comments?