Audiobooks versus Ebooks

Karen Wester Newton:

Too bad audio books didn’t do as well, but maybe the Kindle could bring them along, too, once it takes hold.

It’s occurred to me that at this point, it’s actually cheaper to buy an MP3 player or any other type of listening device for audiobooks than it is to buy a device that you can read an ebook on, be it a PDA, dedicated reader or computer.

In conventional economic theory (as I understand it anyway*), you generally want to price the electronic gadget (audio or ebook device) low and the complementary goods (audio or e books) high. Once you have them hooked, people continue to buy the complementary goods even though they can get very expensive.

An example everybody will know of would be game consoles. My brother told me that for the price of a game console, you can get about half a dozen games, depending on which console you get.

With ebooks, it’s the other way around. Books are cheap, but the device is not. Part of the reason is certainly that you can’t price ebooks at a higher level than the print version, because people won’t make the switch.

Audiobooks also have higher production costs: they have to be read by somebody or somebodies. Then CDs must be burned (does it cost that much more than printing a book?), or if you’re buying it as a download, the file is going to be bigger than an ebook and therefore require more bandwidth (the latter cost ought to be negligible if you average it over the long-run though).

Somewhere in all this is the moral of the story. I just don’t know what it is.

* I’ve just finished the first year of my economics degree with a 66% average which is quite bad since I was trying for high 70s.

3 Responses to “Audiobooks versus Ebooks”

  1. July 12, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Wow, I think I had forgotten you had a whole other non-LJ blog!

    On the audio books thing, I don’t think CDs are expensive compared to books, except that one print book can take literally dozens of CDs. I listened to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. It worked great as an audio book, but it took 26 CDs and cost almost $60! In addition to paying the actor who read the book, the publisher had to package those CDs into a box and ship it to the customer or the book store, and I don’t think boos stores can “return” them like they can an unsold book.

    Audio books strike me as the perfect product to be sold as a download, directly to customers’ Kindles or similar devices.

  2. July 12, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Some would argue that I had forgotten all about this blog too, so…

    I don’t do audio books because I can’t ‘follow’ them, if that makes sense. I lose track which annoys me.

    I would agree, that they are the perfect product to be sold as a download–audible.com is great if you listen to them that often.

  3. July 13, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Audible.com isn’t the only website offering audio books. Please stop by my site http://www.best-audiobooks.com and have a browse. And, if you are buying an MP3 player make sure that it has a bookmark feature so that you do not lose track of where you left off.

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