Sony Warns Trade Over E-Book Prices

LONDON E-book prices will have to come down to meet consumer demand and grow the market, Sony has warned. The company gave the warning at a roundtable this week to discuss the launch of its two new reader devices.

Sony’s general manager for content and services development, Richard Palk, said consumers were confused about why e-book pricing was initially set based on hardback prices before falling when the paperback was released. He added: “It’s fair to expect that prices of digital books will come down. The difference in price between physical books and e-books will have to change to meet consumer expectations. But we are in an evolutionary stage.”

Palk was speaking at a roundtable held on Wednesday at the British Library in central London, which included author Sadie Jones.

Unlike the U.S., the United Kingdom does not have a common benchmark e-book price. Amazon prices new releases and best-selling e-books at $9.99 in the United States, and Sony recently cut the price of best-selling titles to $9.99.

Retailers and publishers appear to be split over who should drive a similar pricing change in the U.K. Fionnuala Duggan, group digital director at Random House, said Amazon was loss-leading in its Kindle pricing. She said: “It’s not an issue for us but it is for booksellers. How do they respond to a competitor loss-leading on e-books?” Duggan refused to be pinned down answer and said it was a matter for booksellers. She added: “If retailers want prices to be lower, then they need to give away more discounts or talk to publishers.”

Waterstone’s commercial director Neil Jewsbury said retailers had to initially work with the recommended retail price of the hardback, which is set by publishers. He added: “With e-books priced at the same recommended price as hardbacks, we don’t have fair pricing and it’s something that needs to be addressed.”

In research conducted by Waterstone’s, the retailer found that the average price paid for an e-book was $10.50. Jewsbury said that was a “good price to pay” for a digital title.

Nielsen Business Media