In news that bodes ill for book publishers, a survey of Chinese folks has revealed that “most readers will tolerate an average e-book price of 3.5 RMB.” That’s just a little over 50 cents. The findings come from the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication in its ninth annual reading survey.
Such a low price expectation would leave very little in the way of margins for book publishers, whether they’re making e-books out of classics like Lu Xun (pictured above) or contemporary writers like Han Han. But paper books are generally cheap in China – rarely more than 15 RMB ($2.38) for a popular title – so the lack of a physical product seems to make local consumers demand an even lower price point.
The survey  also noted that the average price of the top 10 titles on 360Buy’s new e-book store was 5.36 RMB, just a touch above the expectation of those surveyed. I notice on Shanda’s (NASDAQ:SNDA; FRA:RZP) store – which makes the popular Bambook e-reader – that the average price of its current top ten titles is 4.7 RMB. So actual prices are only a few cents above what consumers expect.
In other findings, the Academy discovered which reading medium is preferred: 75.3 percent said they like to hold and read paper books, 11.8 percent like to read online in the desktop web browser, 9.4 percent on their phone, and only 2.5 percent like to lap up literature with an e-reader. That’s quite a surprise given that an e-reader is a quite pleasant way to read that doesn’t strain your eyes in the manner of an illuminated screen – but perhaps it once again comes down to the extra expense.
But, more positively, 50 percent of those surveyed said they’d actually like to buy an e-reader; and the Academy says that 5.4 percent of those questioned did actually own one already. It is estimated that 49 million of the devices have been sold to Chinese readers.
[Source: Sina news - article in Chinese]
We can’t verify the sample size for the Academy survey ↩