A weird thing about South African ebooks

Our mission is to help authors publish their books electronically. As an author who has self-published three books, I have been lucky to have the help of Johann van Schalkwyk, who is far more techno-savvy than I am. We both love the written word and our complementary skills have led to the creation of Shalva Publishing.

While publishing my books, we discovered a quirk of South African ebook platforms and services. Most South African ebooks are vastly overpriced! Often a locally produced ebook costs more than its printed counterpart. We found many SA ebooks selling for more than R200 and numerous cases of an ebook priced above R300 (exorbitant!) whereas a printed copy might cost about R200 (merely expensive). We think this is a weird situation. The lack of overhead costs related to printing, shipping, and shelf space should make ebooks cheaper and more accessible than print books. The inflated local prices mean that fewer South Africans, both readers and authors, appear willing to switch to ebooks. We contacted a few people to try and find out why this situation has occurred and the answers ranged from, basically, “I wasn’t aware of this” (sounding like “I’m not interested”) to “It’s the other person’s fault.” Eish!

In developed countries, epublishing has started to outperform the printed book trade. Many indie (independent) authors make a living from selling their work electronically without printing a single copy. Our aim is to bring the South African trend in line with this international picture. Yet the whole point of epublishing is that you’re not bound to a geographical location. Readers can access your book from anywhere in the world within hours of it being listed on a platform. It should make no difference whether you list on a US-based platform like Amazon.com or on a local one like Kalahari or Exclusives. We believe that the price of your ebook should be similar everywhere, not selling for a few dollars on a US platform but costing several hundred rands on a local platform. Marketing logic suggests that lower prices will attract more readers and so earn you more royalties.