Until now, only a handful of e-books have been made available, and no one has burdened me with their sales information. So, anyone actually know the answer? Is there a 'price point' that makes e-books tempting? How would an e-book differ (offer additional value) compared to a free website? Is there money to be made?
Here's some thoughts though. When one of my books sells, I get about $3 royalty. If I sold an e-book for $5 and it cost me $2 to host the book (that's what Blurb is charging), I could make the same amount of money, and at $5, it could easily be an impulse purchase. Currently there doesn't seem to be a way to find e-books on Blurb and of course the vast majority of the books won't be of 'publishable' quality, but let's say that Ansel were still alive, kicking and photographing, and that for the heck of it, he did an e-book.
Now, lest my publisher read this and have a fit, yes, I know my contract with the publisher gives them the electronic rights to publish, not me, but were I to do a new book..., one of my images (which they have said isn't practical in paper - and I agree)...
How many people would rush out, and how much would they pay, to get hold of an Ansel Adams book on their iPad? After all, Ansel did calendars and posters and Yosemite sold and continues to sell prints of his images, so pretty good chance he'd be up for it.
What if someone were becoming a serious fine art photographer, and for $5 each, they could pick up some 50 images, with some interesting text, by a well respected photographer, and further more, could do so from dozens of famous photographers. $100 would see you well on the way to making a wonderful library of images, all happily fitting on your iPad, and ready to learn from.
I see that William Neil now sells his e-books for $10. Landscapes Of The Spirit is a real book I own, and enjoy, and paid considerably more for. I note on his website that the price was $15, and I'm not sure that it wasn't more than that when he first made his publication available in electronic form. Keep in mind, this is a real book, of 120 pages and 79 images, not some hashed together portfolio with a few words that someone with delusions of grandeur decides to call a book.
Does that make the 'right price' $10, or does the price reflect the reputation of the photographer. Is Ansel's e-book worth more than that of one of his accolytes? Or does popularity and therefore number of sales determine success. After all, that's how it is in music. The price for a Feist song is the same as one by Fred Blogs, and only the number of sales determines the difference. Is that the way it should be?
Occasionally I splurge and pick up a Blurb book from someone I know or think might have interesting images - but by the time I pay frieght (it comes from downtown right here in Calgary), it adds $10 to the cost of a $37.00 book, which means I don't do it that often. Once Blurb starts promoting their e-books I might well pick up more, and if reasonably priced (ie. iTunes equivalent) for lots of famous photographers, well, I know I'd be buying left right and centre.
Since the publication of my first book, I have had a standing offer of any four prints, 8.5X11, $100 including shipping. I get a request every couple of months - hardly a money maker, and probably more trouble than it's worth. Perhaps and especially with the next generation high res iPad, purchasing small prints will be unnecessary and only large prints will be purchased, at prices that compensate the photographer for the shipping and handling, so that he or she can turn a reasonable profit margin. However, don't forget that all of this article is discussing electronic books, not portfolios - though the same arguments apply.
Will I give up the printed book, or the printed image for that matter? Very unlikely. But is the e-book in our future, as photographers as well as purchasers. Damn right!