The NY Times and Gizmodo are attempting to run the math on how much to charge for books purchased on the Kindle and iPad.

Amazon prices Kindle books at $9.99, while Apple will apparently let prices float higher on iPad books, with $12.99 being a frequently-quoted number.

With data drawn from publishing sources, these articles break down costs and profits. Poorly. They don’t differentiate between one-time costs (designing cover artwork) and variable costs (printing each additional copy). And how much of the marketing budget would be identical with or without the ebook version?

The number that sticks out most is the bookseller’s take. A 50% cut makes sense when dealing with a physical book sold through a brick-and-mortar bookstore. A 30% cut is crazy when dealing with atoms pushed out through a virtual retailer. As a reference, I sell pdf and ePub versions of The Variant and only give up 11 cents on the dollar.1

Amazon makes the Kindle to sell books; Apple makes the iPad to sell iPads — selling books is sort of gravy. That gives Apple more price flexibility, and should hopefully avoid absurd situations where the digital version costs much more than the paperback. 2

The publishing industry wants to keep prices up so they can make money. Can’t blame them for that. But you know something’s amiss when Anne Rice is the voice of reason:

The only thing I think is a mistake is people trying to hold back e-books or Kindle and trying to head off this revolution by building a dam. It’s not going to work.

One last point: How soon can we agree to spell ebooks with a lowercase e, and no hyphen?

The Times likes the hyphen, while Gizmodo feels the need to capitalize. I’d suggest that email is the best antecedent. That’s a term that has largely swallowed its hyphen, probably due to its verbification. Can we embrace the future and simply lose the hyphen now?

(Thanks to Quinn for the link.)

  1. But I give up 65 cents of each dollar earned through the Kindle version, which sells much better.
  2. I’m not ignoring the Nook or the Sony readers, but they’re not steering the ship.