Prediction For 2012: The Death of The $37 eBook

Firstly, Happy New Year!

If you’ve been checking in on your favourite blogs over the New Year there have been a slew of two types of posts.  One is a ‘what are your goals’ type of post.  And the other is a ‘predictions for 2012’ type of post.

Subscribers to One Spoon will have read my first goals post a week or so back.  And the whole Goal Process is something that I’m spending a lot of time on learning about, and will be posting about it in greater detail as I think it’s an absolutely fundamental business activity that is not given its due importance.

So to keep in with the ‘in crowd’ I’m going with a prediction post. You can probably guess what my prediction is going to be – it’s telegraphed by the title of the post – but I think in 2012 the mid priced eBook (say $37 to $97) is going to give up the ghost and quietly expire.

I’ve written about pricing eBooks before – back in June I ran this post:

Pricing An eBook In The Kindle Age

That post is worth a read – because although trying to sell an eBook at $37 or up is getting harder and harder, the psychological selling principles of ‘bundling value’ in a product are sound.  It’s just much harder now with eBooks than it was even 6 months ago.

So Why Is The $37 Book Going The Way Of The Dodo?

One word: Kindle.

See, back in the day when you could create 50 page PDFs and sell lots of them for $37 or above, the people who were buying those eBooks weren’t buying books per so.  There were buying instant solutions to problems that they wanted solving now.

Sometimes the brevity of the book was even a plus point – which would you rather buy: a 50 page book focused on the specific problem you want solving; or the same information combined into a traditional 250 page book along with other topics?

But Kindle changed all that.

Because in 2011 the vast majority of people who read eBooks were introduced to the concept via Amazon’s Kindle.  And if you know anything about the Kindle platform, one of the Terms And Conditions is that the Kindle version of a book is the cheapest version of that book available.  Anywhere.

If Amazon find a cheaper version somewhere then they just discount the Kindle price further until it is the cheapest price.

And so all these people are used to getting eBooks for free, or for just a few dollars.  And not only will they balk at paying above $20 for ‘an eBook,’ they’ll scream bloody blue murder about it.

True Story – I was reading an article on eBook piracy behind the pay wall of the London Times the other day, and in the comments section one guy wrote something to the effect that publishers were bringing it upon themselves because they charge  ‘ludicrous prices’ for eBooks.  His argument was that an eBook should be almost free because there is no physical component, therefore no printing, no warehousing etc.

This brings us to the eBook Pricing Conundrum.

Book Pricing Is Based On An Archaic Pricing Model

eBooks – as the name implies – are just electronic versions of books.  Before Kindle came along they were different than the kind of book you bought in a bookshop – and therefore weren’t bound by the same archaic pricing model that governs book prices.

Because the price of books has been set by the major publishing companies for the last thirty or forty years.  And that price has never been determined by the value of the information in the actual book.

And combining the rapid acceptance of the Kindle device with Amazon’s insistence on low prices, and now in 2011 the price of eBooks is bound into that same pricing model.  So all these new users of eBooks have been conditioned to paying single figure prices for their Kindle eBooks, and it’s a hard sell to get them to pay $37, or $47, or more.

This is why I think the $37 (or above) eBook will just slip out of existence in 2012.

All Is Not Lost For Potential Product Creators Though

There’s an old cliché: when one day closes, another one opens.  Personally I think the ‘death’ of the $37 eBook can be leveraged into something that’s potentially good for both product creators and product consumers.

The economics of selling eBooks at $5 and below is tough – even though Amazon lets you keep 70% royalty above the  $2.99 price point, you need to sell 17 times as many copies at that price point to make the same revenue as a $37 book.

So instead of creating eBooks that won’t sell many copies at $37, what product creators need to do is to repurpose the core material of their eBook and turn it into some kind of course.

Do that right and suddenly you can be charging $97 and up for your course.  And not only will you get clients who are more than happy to pay $97 or more – but if they get the results that you are ‘selling’ they’ll be utterly delighted and figure that their price of admission was a bargain.

That kind of client buys more than one course from you (if you’re a subscriber, revisit the post on sequential selling).  And gives you great testimonials.

The New ‘Holy Grail’ For Product Creators In 2012 – Teaching Clients Via Online Courses

So although I’ve written a truckload about eBooks here on One Spoon – and I’ll continue to write about them too! (see below) – if you’re serious about generating revenue with your own products, then my advice is to ignore eBooks and think more ambitiously and turn your eBooks into detailed courses.

This may require you to learn about teaching, and what works best.  Again this is an opportunity, not a major problem.  Most of your competitors will be too lazy to spend any time doing this – if you learn how to teach effectively  (and there are many ways of doing this) you’ll arm yourself with knowledge that will become a distinct advantage in the market place.

The spread of mobile devices and broadband access is just opening up bigger markets for ‘distance learning.’  You can use content marketing to attract clients – and then convert them to paying clients for your Courses.

There’s a really interesting brand of content marketing that works hand in glove with this model – Brian Clark of Copyblogger called it Tutorial Marketing back in 2007:

The Return Of Tutorial Marketing

This is all nothing new by the way – there have been Internet Courses as far back as I remember.  And probably beyond that.

But Internet Courses are getting more sophisticated now – and you do have to put some work in learning how to teach effectively.  But it can be very lucrative – it’s certainly the way I’m heading with my Bass Guitar website.  I won’t really be creating any eBooks anymore – it will be multimedia courses all the way.

Where Does This Leave The eBook?

Although Courses are the way forward IMO, there are still several uses for eBooks.  And the creation of valuable and detailed eBooks should still be considered as a business strategy.

eBooks can be used in these ways:

  • Given away free for lead generation purposes
  • Sold on Kindle to build a list of ‘buyers.’  (Highly targeted lead generation).
  • Build awareness of your brand/expertise
  • Used as assignment selling.  (if you’re not familiar with the term, go read the hyperlinked post over at Marcus Sheridan’s ‘The Sales Lion’ website.)

So eBooks are still an important business asset to create – but they won’t generate the kind of revenues they used to back in the PK day (pre-Kindle).  In fact I STILL have to complete the last 5 modules of my course on writing eBooks….and I’ll get back to that soon.  So if you’re a subscriber, watch out for an announcement of that soon.


The day of the $37 is fading and 2012 will be the year these eBooks pass out of the mainstream.  Unless you can educate your clients as to the value of the information you are selling – it’s not worth even going there.

But there is a silver lining – if you convert your eBook to a Course then you are adding a higher perception of value to your information.  There’s also a higher likelihood of your clients actually getting the results you are promoting from a well-structured course than an eBook – that’s a win-win for you and for them.

eBooks are still a valuable business asset though – but they won’t generate the kind of revenues that they used to.

Your Shout

So what are your thoughts on eBooks in 2012?  Or if you have an outlandish predication you’d like to share, I’d love to see that.  Fire away in the comments below.

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