I recently paid $1.99 for a digital copy of Stephen King's Doctor Sleep. The offer came to me in a daily newsletter I receive in my inbox that routinely lists books by Nora Roberts, Dan Brown, Tom Clancy, and other mega-watt bestsellers. In many instances, I can get e-books written by these authors for just a buck or two.
Maybe five years ago, this practice was unheard of. Then, the Department of Justice did a little poking around into the lockstep pricing of certain e-books. Phrases like "price fixing" and words like "collusion" became part of the publishing lexicon. The end result of the DOJ's investigation was lower e-book prices. This was where the market was naturally heading with the proliferation of e-readers and the low costs associated with making e-books, but some companies didn't want to see their books selling for a few bucks.
Guess what? Readers (the market) prevailed...
I like to study the markets where you can find my stories, and the more that I study Amazon (the largest volume bookseller by far), the more I see the price of books stabilizing somewhere between $2.99 and $4.99. If you look at any genre top 100 list on Amazon, you'll see traditionally published bestsellers right next to independent authors--in many cases, with both books somewhere inside that price window.
We're seeing the quality of the artwork and packaging improve for independent authors, and it's often hard to distinguish at all between the products (with the notable exception of the established author's name on the front, of course).
Heck, here's a listing of 300 books (!) that fall within that price range--many of them from well-known traditional publishing houses.
This marks an interesting trend, and one that I think bodes well for the next generation of independent and hybrid authors. I expect that more of the mega-watt bestsellers will experiment with self publishing, and that an entirely new collection of cooperative business practices will emerge between authors and publishers, who still hold a distinct advantage in engineering successful marketing campaigns for a book.
Readers should be excited about these trends. Given the cost of putting together a solid e-book, it stands to reason that they should be able to buy five or six quality books for the price of one traditionally published hardcover...