There has been a lot of discussion in recent months about the pricing of eBooks, most of it stating that eBooks are too expensive and that prices need to come down. Seth Godin made a post on his blog recently pointing out that eBooks don’t really compete with traditional books but with mobile games, music and downloadable movies.
While there is probably a tiny bit of truth in it, I do not like the intimation that as a result of it, eBooks should come down in price. Why? Because for the most part, eBooks are actually sensibly priced.
Making a general, sweeping statement like that of Grodin creates the illusion that all eBooks are too expensive, when in fact it truly relates only to a portion of the market that is getting smaller by the day – that of major publishing houses. What it overlooks entirely is the flood of self-published eBooks that is swamping the market to the point that it actually chokes outlets. Most of these books are very low in price – too low, as a matter of fact – as they are not priced to create a sustainable business.
Instead most of these indie authors price their book based on a fear factor, hoping they could grab readership that way that would then miraculously turn into profits some time in the future. Nothing could be further from the truth, but if these authors want to get into this race the bottom, let them, I say. I’d rather see them help build a solid industry that is cohesive in its approach and makes use of the lessons that can be learned from comparable industries, such as the music and games industry, but the fear of failure seems to be too deeply rooted in most first-time writers.
The problem with general statements like Grodin’s is that people will look at it and echo the sentiment, never realizing that his criticism was actually pointed towards the NY publishing houses who still charge up to $15 for an eBook – the same as they do for a mass market paperback. These prices are not sustainable, there can be no doubt in my mind, but when people begin to complain that $2.99 for an eBook is too much we are beginning to have problems.
On many of the message boards I frequent I see posts where readers ask “Why are eBooks so expensive?,” citing $4.99 books as examples and shortly after you will see people pointing out that all eBooks should be 99 cents. It worries me to see this kind of sentiment in consumers, to be honest. It is bordering on an insult, really, as if the time, effort and intellectual work that went into the creation of a book was entirely worthless.
Being a price-conscious consumer who expects quality is one thing, but being the guy who demands everything for free is something different entirely.
It is important that we remember the value books have, not in terms of dollars and cents, but in enjoyment, emotion, pleasure, fright, drama and overall entertainment. Can you still, with a clean conscience, demand that eBooks should be only 99 cents?
When you read blog posts and articles about people calling for lower eBook prices, remember that this is not a call to a universal 99 cents price point, but a wake-up call for the fat cats in the NY publishing houses, who still believe that having an illiterate like Snooki “write” a book is a better idea than giving an actual writer a chance. Those guys have completely lost touch with their readership a long time ago. The only thing they are concerned about is to cater to their stock holders and board of directors so they won’t get fired. But guess what? If they keep up making those ridiculous decisions regarding their content and price tags, they will find themselves looking for life preservers before this year is out.