The cost is obviously market driven. The publisher has decided that this vastly popular series will sell lots of ebooks and hardbacks and that enough people will pay a premium to read the books 'early'. The ebook price will drop to the paperback price when the paperback is released, and at some time in future it will drop down to about half that. Is this gouging - possibly. Is the reason the greed of the publisher - only partly - Its also caused as much by customers being willing to pay this price. Personally I feel ebooks should be discounted off of the paperback cost. But thats only my opinion. If you dont agree dont buy the books. Or buy from a publisher like Baen who offer their ebooks at a reasonable price.
Ill probably wait for a second hand version of this - as the market will saturate quite quickly.
I think "luxury" in this context means "not a necessity". Necessities are shelter and food; electronic gadgets are definitely luxuries, including mp3s M Riches! If you can't afford to buy fiction books you can borrow them free from your local public library, at least in Britain. There is no excuse for stealing, which I believe is implied by M. Riches' boast of "other ways of obtaining them". Theft deprives the author of his livelihood, and why should you get something for nothing M Riches, when you obviously have managed to afford a computer and/or an MP3 player?
The ebook however has lower overhead costs, which should be reflected in the purchase price. Not having to print and distribute the ebook means that charging the same price gains you a far greater profit.
Not to mention GRRM's outright greed in separating the paperback into two volumes, and charging the price of both to anyone getting the electronic edition. It sickens me to the point where I have voted with my wallet to forget the ISOIAF series altogether. Shame, I had been looking forward to this book for years, but GRRM clearly doesn't give a damn about his readers.