Chinese eReaders demand ultra-low eBook prices

Chinese company Hanvon’s not-too-fancy eReader

Today on The Digital Reader blog, Nate Hoffelder contributed a post about the Chinese eBook market and some of the issues it has been having in gaining traction with consumers. Apparently, eBook readers are not as popular in China as they are in the US. The major Chinese eBook sellers, including Hanvon, Dangdang, Jingdong Mall, and Shanda, are fighting to gain an edge in a very limited market. Hanvon has attempted to copy the Amazon-style business model by creating devices to sell content, but a limited eBook selection and poor relationship with key industry leaders has left them depending on their eReaders for sales (and by the looks of one of their flagship eReaders pictured above, I can only assume that this will also continue to be a struggle).

The most interesting part of the article reveals that Chinese consumers expect eBooks to cost much less than they do here in the states. Nate reports that Chinese consumers are “resistant” to current eBook valuation; it has been hard for companies like Hanvon to sell eBooks at a 5-8 yuan price point. Nate comments: “And if  you think there’s a disconnect between what US publishers charge and what  the US eBook buying public wants to pay, that’s nothing compared to China where that average price of 5-8 yuan converts to $.80 to $1.26.”

Did I read that correctly? eBooks in China cost around one dollar, and customers are rejecting that price point? While I tend to think that eBook prices are inflated here in the US as a result of the agency pricing model, $1.00 is of course totally unfair to the authors, editors, and publishers who produce the content. I am in favor of a $1.99 – $9.99 price range, depending on the length and status of the book at hand, but when $14.99 eBooks are selling for $0.08 in China, the whole market is losing out (especially the authors). I can’t imagine that too many Big Six titles are included in these Chinese eBook stores, but if Amazon expands into China (something that is supposed to occur in the near future), they will have a hard time convincing customers to pay even $9.99 for a single book. Some publishers might just count their blessings that people are actually paying for their eBooks in China . . .

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