A couple of weeks ago I was bitching that none of my favourite authors had their most recent books available in eBook format. Well as luck would have it, Tom Wolfe just released his new novel I am Charlotte Simmons and it is available as an eBook!
I went to 3 sources to check out the prices: Fictionwise had it for US$15 (but with a 50% rebate added to your account), eReader.com for US$13.50 and Amazon for US$10.20. Although Amazon was the cheapest, I decided to buy it from Fictionwise because a) they're an eBook specialist and I like their services, b) Fictionwise had a full explanation of the formats available and what hardware you need, whereas Amazon offered no help or assurances in that regard, and c) the 50% rebate convinced me it was worth bypassing the cheapest deal (Amazon) on this occasion.
The download process was fairly painless and it was mainly my over-cautious approach that slowed things down (I double-checked the format and hardware specs, looked over Fictionwise's policies, etc). The download was offered in two "secure" formats: eReader and Microsoft Reader. I chose eReader, simply because I already have the software installed on my Palm T2 PDA.
The Fictionwise download process was very smooth and to unlock the eBook, I just had to enter my name and Visa card number. So all in all, everything went well. Experienced eBook readers will be going "Duh!" at that statement, but when it's your first purchase of an eBook you worry about things like whether the installation/unlocking will be successful and what will happen if the format is incompatible etc. So I commend Fictionwise on a user-friendly and intuitive download process, particularly for the extensive help webpages and explanations of eBook formats and hardware requirements (as I mentioned, that was missing from Amazon).
Regarding pricing, I still think eBooks need to come down in price some more in order to attract new customers. Amazon are offering the hardcover book for US$17.37, which is only a couple of dollars more than I paid for the electronic version at Fictionwise. However I would've had to pay some hefty delivery charges to buy the hardcover at Amazon (one drawback of living on the other side of the world), so the zero delivery cost of eBooks is a big plus for me.
The other factor was the immediate delivery of the book via Internet download. Being in New Zealand, typically I have to wait 3-4 weeks for Amazon deliveries. New Zealand book retailers as far as I know don't stock this book yet (and even if they did, book prices are generally significantly higher in NZ stores than on Amazon - even factoring in delivery). So eBook format is probably the only way I'd get to read Wolfe's new book before Christmas.
All up, NZ$20 isn't a bad price to pay for a brand new book I can't wait to read - so I'm happy. I'll let you know how the reading experience goes in a later post.