With Joe Kissell’s "Take Control of Email with Apple Mail," you’ll notice that we set the price at $10 – as we had done for Glenn Fleishman’s "Take Control of Sharing Files in Panther" – instead of the introductory $5 price point we have used for most of our other ebooks. We had a number of reasons for the change, including:
Size: There’s a rule of thumb in the publishing industry of setting price points at roughly 10 cents per page. Since our ebook pages are almost exactly equivalent in content to paper book pages, we felt the higher price was warranted given the 89-page length of "Take Control of Email with Apple Mail."
Effort: At over 24,000 words in its initial release, "Take Control of Email with Apple Mail" was a significant effort on Joe’s part to research and write, and on Tonya’s part to edit (compare that with a magazine article that might run 1,500 to 3,000 words at most). Although we don’t have any materials costs to take into account when pricing our ebooks, we do have to make sure the likely proceeds will offer a fair compensation to the many days our authors and editors spend working on Take Control ebooks and their updates.
Free updates: Our free updates have been tremendously popular, and for good reason: the Macintosh industry changes quickly, and up-to-date information is essential to all of us. But as much as we like being able to publish free updates, they do take effort. We’ll never charge for minor updates, but since we anticipate that Joe will put in a lot more work keeping "Take Control of Email with Apple Mail" updated over the lifespan of the book, with that $10, you’re essentially buying Joe’s expertise over time. To cycle back to the size issue, we also anticipate the book growing toward and past 100 pages in future updates, making the price-to-page ratio even better over time.
Flexibility: By setting the price at $10, we have a lot more room to offer discounts to loyal customers. As an example, consider the $2.50 discount off "Take Control of Email with Apple Mail" when purchased with "Take Control of Spam with Apple Mail" through the end of August. All existing customers of "Take Control of Spam with Apple Mail" are also entitled to a $2.50 discount; if you didn’t get the mail we sent out about that, just click your Check for Updates button. We also hope to start working with other companies to resell all our ebooks, and the $5 price point (particularly after transaction fees) doesn’t leave much after the reseller takes a cut.
Value: Although we’ve learned from our PayBITS experiment that value is a tenuous concept, when interpreted as "the amount of your time that reading this book will save," we are comfortable that "Take Control of Email with Apple Mail" would still provide more than $10 of value. If it helps you recover important mail in a damaged mailbox, get an attachment through to a Windows user on the first try, or send mail through a recalcitrant SMTP server when travelling, it will have paid for itself instantly.
As I noted when I first wrote about the Take Control project, we intended $5 as an introductory price, and one that we would reevaluate once we had learned more about the business side of the venture. It’s still too early to make any categorical statements about pricing, but $10 seems appropriate for books that are closing in on the 100-page mark and that we anticipate growing even more with free updates.
Note that we’ve made it trivially easy for anyone concerned with price to save 10 percent on their next order, simply by clicking the Help a Friend button on the cover of the current version of any ebook and recommending that ebook to a friend (who also saves 10 percent). Oddly, even though thousands of people have presumably seen that button, only 11 have taken advantage of the discount. (If there’s a problem with the Web pages that handle the referral, let me know, since it was the first programming I ever did in Web Crossing.) Also, all user group members are entitled to 10 percent off any Take Control order; nearly 150 user groups currently receive the discount and free review copies of our ebooks.
We’re in this for the long run, and we have a number of new ebooks and other projects in the works that we think you’re going to like a lot. But as with all businesses, we have to make sure that we can earn sufficient income to afford to carry out those plans. Thanks for all the support you’ve given us so far, and we certainly plan to continue producing ebooks worthy of your support.