The EU is to formally investigate whether Apple and 5 European publishers are gouging the e-book market. Have they conspired to set prices and so rig the market, is the question.
E-books more expensive than paper
E-books are more expensive than paper editions, much to the surprise of many experts. Manufacture and distribution of paper copies are only 15% of total costs. And in most countries e-books have vat on them whereas paper books do not.
The five publishers are:
- Hachette Livre (owned byLagardère Publishing,France) ;
- Harper Collins (owned by News Corp,USA);
- Simon & Schuster (owned by CBS Corp,USA);
- Penguin (owned by Pearson Group,United Kingdom); and
- Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck (owner of, among others, Macmillan, and based inGermany).
The top selling e-books tend to be at the more serious end of the market. Even as early as 2009 special interest and scientific e-books totalled £130 million in sales in theUK, according to the British Publishers Association.
E-books will account for 14.2% of the UK book market by 2015, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers. This is up from 0.2% in 2009.
In a survey of potential users of e-books in theUK, PwC found that:
- 21% of readers will not change their behaviour and switch to e-books;
- 50% of readers will use e-books and paper; and
- Only 4% will only use e-books.
Rigged market or low demand?
The low take up, vat and the rather cool attitude to e-books by many readers, rather than any market rigging by publishers and Apple, may account for the high prices of e-books.