E-books aren't exactly bound for the bargain bin, but avid readers may find a few other ways to build their digital library with less cost.
Prices of e-books have been dropping since last fall, when the Department of Justice achieved settlements with major publishers over price-fixing allegations. As a result of new agreements that allow retailers such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble more pricing freedom, the average price of a best-seller was $11.79 in October; by late August, it was $6.33, according to Digital Book World, an industry group. On Friday, the DOJ issued an order requiring Apple to modify its agreements with publishers in a similar fashion.
Booksellers are now experimenting with even lower-priced and free reads. Next month, Amazon will launch a service, MatchBook, allowing customers who have purchased select print books through the site to get the e-book version for $2.99 or less. Some titles will be free.
Start-ups such as Oyster and eReatah have taken a different approach with subscriptions. Oyster offers all-you-can-read access for $9.95 a month, while eReatah's plans start at $16.99 for two titles.
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The e-book market is maturing. Over the past five years, sales have grown 76.2 percent a year, said Jesse Chiang, an industry analyst for IBISWorld. Now that many of the people who want to read digitally have made the switch, annual growth over the next five years is expected to be closer to 7.5 percent.