Eoin Purcell (whom we only know through the blogosphere) has followed Exact Editions closely and he makes a comment about the pricing of our recently released titles (Sawdays and Debretts). Eoin thinks the pricing is very reasonable (Debrett’s individual is £75 and institutional is £295 per annum) and, by email, wonders whether we ‘advise’ the publishers, or whether they make up their own minds. Mostly they make up their own minds, but of course they sometimes consult us.

The pricing of the Sawdays books seems to me quite low (£1.99 to £6.99), but it is not so low that it would be a concern to us (at some point, we will say to a publisher: rather than charging one really ought to give the book away!). If the Debretts publishers had asked us how they should price their resources, this is the kind of response we might have given them:

  1. consider what the competitors are doing
  2. we can offer two servicies (1) to institutions (2) to individuals
  3. probably important to consider which type of market is more important to you in the long term (my guess for this book would be the institutional market)
  4. the individuals market is also important for creating the institutional market (librarians are more likely to subscribe to services which they hear that their members want) and the individual enthusiast creates an awareness buzz
  5. pricing can be changed (but not too often or too dramatically without causing upset to your market)
  6. its very important to remember that the pricing for a YEAR. 12 months only. But you should expect most subscribers to renew (especially the institutions) and in the longer term you will make much more from renewals than for one off non-renewers. The pricing should be such that the individual or the institution sees that it is good value to renew next year (even if they didn’t use it as much as they thought they would — which will often be true).
  7. beneath some level the pricing is not elastic. I dont know what that level is, but my hunch would be that there is not much difference for your book between take-up at £200 per institution and £250, but that there is a reasonable difference in take-up between £200 and £600 per institution (similarly there may not be a huge difference between £45 and £55 per individual, but there probably is a big difference in take up between ££60 and £95 per annum). I think very few individuals not closely related to the Duke of Westminster will pay for an online annual subscription over £100.
  8. Just guesses!

Actually that last piece of advice is the key. Just guesses! All this is guesswork. We none of us yet know how much digital literature will be free and what the right prices are to build up a culture of loyal subscribers to premium content. I have a strong suspicion that the right prices are going to be a lot lower than the premium prices charged by STM publishers for institutional access.

Its also the case that a digital platform offering 12 month licenses offers publishers a very interesting opportunity to test pricing strategies which they would not be able to do with print offerings.