What possible reason could there be for an eBook to cost more than a print book?

Back in 2011, I expressed some puzzlement about why a digital book and print book would be offered at the same price

So imagine my annoyance when I saw this last month with a new release I wanted to buy:

One of my theories about the eBook pricing in 2011 was this:

Print books are being propped up by keeping eBook prices higher.
Digital publishing costs less and can, at the same time, get more money
to content creators. But digital publishing seriously disrupts the
existant business model – for good or ill. (Think about all the jobs
that are no longer needed.) I suspect that left to their own devices,
novel length eBooks would be distributed in a normal curve around the $5
price point. I further suspect that more people would read digitally if
they saw price savings over print books. Regardless of the motivation, I believe that keeping eBook prices the same as print book prices slows the adoption of digital readers.

About the same time, there were a plethora of articles stating that eBooks would effectively replace mass market paperbacks (example, example, example). It became common knowledge.

And yet at the end of 2014, Publisher’s Weekly reported that mass market paperback sales weren’t dropping as much and showed signs of stabilizing.  The prices at the end of that article are pretty comparable to the price points I am seeing now for paperbacks.

This isn’t one isolated example (though it seems to happen less frequently with genre fiction), nor is it solely because a book is a new release.  Take these screenshots from 27 Sept as a rough example:

So there’s really only two explanations that I can think of: 

1. These large publishers are wanting to simply maximize profit and think the convenience of the eBook will be sufficient to charge a higher price and get away with it.

2. These large publishers are trying to shape demand and keep the mass market paperback market going longer than it otherwise would.

Neither of these make good amounts of long-term business sense to me; then again, I’m also a publisher who is making digital copies bundled with all print books through Shelfie.

Michael Kozlowski over at Goodreader thinks something even more sinister. In his post (which I stumbled across just as I finished writing this) he spells out a theory that it’s not just to lift sales, but a deliberate attempt to destroy the eBook market.

What do you think? 

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