So it turns out that Apple, along with five of the worlds biggest publishers are being investigated for fixing the price of eBooks. Often - bizarrely - the eBooks cost more than the paper copies. Ian Rankin's THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD is £7.79 for the hardcover, and a smidgeon under a tenner if you simply want the words but are prepared to forego the paper.
In my case, the digital version of SEA OF GHOSTS cost slightly less than the hardcover, but even that seems far too much to me. After all, with digital copies, there are no production costs whatsoever and virtually no distribution costs to take into account (simply maintaining servers and software). When I self published LYE STREET several months back, I priced it at 99 cents (about 80p), which was the lowest Amazon would permit me to sell it at. They still take 70%.
So why do some books cost more in this format? The government is partly to blame. VAT is charged at 20% on eBooks, but not real books. Why? Presumably because it is a handy source of revenue until enough people complain, and they are forced to stop it. While publisher price fixing appears to partly responsible, they can only charge these prices if enough people are prepared to pay them. That requires a large fan base. Authors like Ian Rankin and Stephen King already have large enough fan bases to make this sort of pricing feasible. Most other authors don't.
Almost every book in the Amazon Kindle Bestseller list is 99p. Those few titles that cost more are all by big name writers with millions of fans. For the rest of us writers, it seems to me that publishers have to bring down the price of our eBooks to compete in a very crowded marketplace.