Now, to business.
E-books are an interesting phenomenon; as Nathan noted yesterday, the debate over e-book availability and pricing rages on, whereas Agent Kristin recently posted about the serious possibility of e-book piracy via Our Dear Leader, Google.
I believe (perhaps unfairly) that human beings are decent to a point: we're happy to pay for something if it's not a serious inconvenience and we believe we're getting our money's worth, but when we feel like we're getting the shaft, we're all for simply taking what we can get. Remember when Radiohead let us pay whatever we wanted for "In Rainbows"? Well, six out of ten of us decided we wanted to pay $0.00, and even knowing full well we could "buy" the album from Radiohead for absolutely nothing, 2.3 million of us decided we were going to "steal" it from BitTorrent instead. Things like this make me wonder whether Kurt was too optimistic about the human race.
Anyway, I have to say I agree with Nathan about the $9.99 price point for e-books (that is, I'm in favor of it) and agree that if people are denied the option of buying, say, The Forgotten Rune in e-format and are told instead that they can pay $26.00 for the hardcover, most are just going to go ahead and buy a different e-book instead (Boy Wizard and the Arduous Quest, perhaps). I don't think the current model (charging consumers hardcover price for e-books while the print hardcover is out, then reducing it to paperback price when that comes out) is sustainable, and if publishers either limit supply or make consumers feel stiffed, consumers are going to turn to piracy more and more.
Example: before the advent of the iTunes store, I did this with music. (Don't give me that look. You did it, too.) Undoubtedly, legions of us still do this, but ever since I've been given the option of paying $0.99 for a song, I've done that. It seems like a fair price to me and the iTunes store is a convenient venue. Similarly, I believe most folks will be willing to pay $9.99 for a book, and as long as it's being sold in a convenient venue (e.g. Amazon's on-line store), people will be willing to shell out.
Now, there are alternatives to the existing structure and the Amazon Model: Peter Olson, former CEO of the big house, recently wrote an essay on e-book pricing and the future of the electronic book medium. In part, he argues that books with high initial demand (especially pent-up demand, à la Dan Brown) could be priced at nearly $40.00 per book in the initial twenty-four hours, then dropped down as low as $4.00 per book once the rush has subsided. (The article also explains the price structure for printed books—among other things, that for every copy of a $10.00 printed book sold, the author makes $1.50 and the publisher and bookstore make $0.50 apiece—so I'd definitely recommend you read the whole thing.)
What do you think? Are you partial to any of the three models I've listed (existing publisher model, $9.99 model, pay-based-on-demand model), or would you prefer something entirely different?