The price of eBooks: a contemplation

ThoughtsI recently saw a post on Facebook by a friend who was ranting talking about why she would not spend $10 on an ebook, and that at that price she would rather buy the paperback. That got me thinking. I will admit I am a victim of looking at the price of an ebook and not buying it because I thought it was too expensive. I’m talking $7.99 or something close to it. I see that as being expensive for an ebook, I think the $2 or $3 area is suitable for an ebook but aside from me saying I think that’s reasonable for a book where I don’t get a physical copy, I can’t really tell you why that is.

It is very interesting how ebooks are viewed differently than paperbacks, or even hardcovers (do they make those anymore or is it just those larger paperbacks which throw off shelf height organisation?). Years before ebooks, hardcover books came out first, you could buy it then for $40 or you could wait months to get the paperback version instead which would be lighter, cheaper, and just better in all kinds of ways. I was never a hardcover fan, they were heavy, hard to hold, and while they stood up on their own they weren’t that special in my opinion. Many of my Harry Potter books ended up in hardcover because you didn’t have the luxury in high school to wait for paperbacks, people would have read it over a weekend and you’d be blocking your ears for spoilers forever. My birthday always seemed to be two weeks after the release of each book and even waiting that short time was tough until I pulled the early present rule due to extreme circumstances. I do remember though waiting about four or five years for the hardcover version of the complete Blinky Bill stories to come out in paperback in a bookshop. That was an exceptionally long time but I waited and it finally arrived. Granted this was different than normal books, it was a large hardcover special edition, bigger than a regular hardcover book. But anyway, I digress.

When it comes to being unwilling to pay high costs for ebooks is it because we feel ebooks are not worthy of being more than a few dollars; that as convenient as they are they are not something that you’d waste too much money on? There are many free ebooks in the world, there are also a mass of 99c ebooks that are promoted to us as “only $0.99” or “under a dollar” and we’re meant to see this as a bargain. As it is, a whole digital book for 99c (unless you’re in Australia and it turns into $1.05 because of mysterious stupid reasons) is a great deal. What else do you get for 99c if not a whole brand new book to read and enjoy? Many others are listed as two, three, four, anywhere up to even twelve dollars and various cents for these digital books. Is it because there is no physical copy that there are limits to what we’ll pay? If we are going to pay $10 or $12 for an ebook we may as well pay $15 or $20 and have a hard copy in our hands that can’t get accidentally deleted or stuck on one device and unable to be shared. Or is it the idea that a book is a book regardless and whether it is $3 or $12 it makes no difference. Yes the printing and publishing costs don’t need to be considered but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other factors or costs involved.

The next question I suppose is how an ebook comes to be worthy or their price, what makes one $7.99 or 99c or given for free? I’d say author popularity or pre-existing success has something to do with it, there are no doubt reasons why Matthew Reilly’s ebook version of his new release are $15 and an unknown new author may give theirs away for free or 99c. Ebooks follow the same new release gradual price drop as all others, but the fact that it varies even within a single authors collection is highly curious. Is this due to publication date? size? popularity? Someone out there would know, I however do not.

I know many priced books are made free by authors being generous for their readers, I have snagged a few that way certainly, I’ve even taken a chance on unheard of authors and novels because they are free. I believe I have only paid for an ebook once and that was under $4, and the only reason I did it was because I wanted to read the next in the series sooner rather than later and figured it was not unreasonable in the grand scheme of things. But this is because one – I am a physical over ebook preferer when it comes to buying books, and two – I am not made of money so if I’m going to spend money it I may as well get the format I like best if possible. This does result in me being a library abuser and splurging on rare occasions (like writers festivals and book fairs).

I have no answers to any of these questions, I do not know the inner workings of the ebook industry or why things are what they are. Who knows, maybe authors decide their price, though I doubt Amazon would allow that so I’m  certain that it isn’t the case. But it does get me thinking about it more, something I hadn’t considered at any depth before. I do know that no matter what these reasons are, but at the end of the conversation I am certain that I too would not spend $10 on an ebook, glad to see I’m in good company.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. allvce
    Apr 25, 2014 @ 14:17:43

    I feel that same way, I will also not spend $10 on a digital copy of a book. I will however buy a paperback copy of a digital book I loved.



    • Amy
      Apr 25, 2014 @ 14:20:25

      I think I would do that as well. I saw another person yesterday say they weren’t paying $20 for an ebook. It seems people really think that ebooks are worthy of a lower price for not getting a physical copy.



      • allvce
        Apr 25, 2014 @ 14:29:53

        I think its strange that for something that costs less to make, companies are charger the same as a paperback. But wow, $20 is a lot of money!



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