27 October 2009

Penny for your thoughts?

A dollar? Five dollars? $9.99?

Or not?

With the release of the nook I've been seeing tweets and posts complaining about the prices of ebooks being "too high"/"too high at one retailer as compared to another". Prices needing to be "competitive" between retailers. And then there's the price war between Walmart, Amazon, and Target for pre-orders on future bestsellers (don't get me started).

What amazes me is how people keep wanting the prices to go down which is presumably what is meant by that term "competitive". At what point does the price get low enough? Zero? Is that really where we're heading?

What about the author who slaved for weeks, months, years over that book you complain about being priced "too high"? Does the author not deserve compensation? Particularly if writing is the author's source of income - books, articles, essays, reviews, etc.?  There has to be some value applied to the creative output of a mind.  Why is $9.99 so high for 250 pages of writing but $7.50 is better?  A lot of people have to be paid out of that $7.50.  If "competition" is about driving down prices, the competition isn't between the authors, it's between retailers so the author's slice of that little book pie just keeps on getting smaller as the price decreases.

What I find strange is that no one is demanding that the movie industry reign in the prices, that the studios and theatre chains "compete" with one another by lowering ticket prices, that the A-list "stars" work for less.  I don't see anyone "voting with their feet" by going to a different movie theatre chain - particularly in my town where the prices are the same and the choices no better.  I went to two midnight movie premieres this summer and not once did I hear anyone complain that they were spending $12+ and having to wait in line for hours ahead of time to get seats.

I'm not quite sure what I'm driving at in this post.  I got off on this tanget because I was really tired of reading all these wonks who purport to understand the "business model" but who I'm pretty sure have never actually had to stand on a sales floor in their life.  I sell books, pretty much everyday, and I can tell you what sells to what type of customer and what does not, "business model" bedamned.  I'm also tired of consumers who think that the entire driving goal of the capitalist system is to see how much stuff they can acquire on the cheap; my part-Scottish great-grandmother called that "mean".

There really isn't much of a solution in this post.  Just something I had to get off my chest before it manifested somewhere else in much ruder language.

1 comment:

  1. I think the problem isn't that people don't want to pay the publisher/author/etc, it's that the value of an ebook isn't on the same level as a paper book. With a paper book, you can own it forever (or at least as long as the glue and paper hold up), you can share it with friends, you can sell it to someone else or return it to the store, you can mark it up, and so on. You can't do all those things with an ebook, and who wants to have bought a $20 book, end up hating it, and be unable to get rid of it in any other way than deleting it from your ebook device? At least with a paper book you'd be able to trade it in at a UBS, or something. A $5 ebook, or even a $1 ebook, however, hurts much less when it's not as good as you hoped.

    Same thing with movies or DVDs-- if you don't like your experience, you can get your money back or trade it for a different item.

    I think also people aren't too sure how the price of a book breaks down. How much do authors get out of a $10 book? How much do the designers get? How much does it cost to actually print the thing? (And there's another thing-- if ebooks don't use paper or ink, shouldn't they be a little bit less than paper books right at the start?) How much do the distributors get? And so on. I think if people were more aware of how much is put into making a book and how much each person gets paid (especially the author compared to everyone else), they'd be less hostile to an ebook that costs more than $1.

    But then too is what you mentioned about people wanting everything cheap-- yeah, that's true, but that's also a result of the bargain-discount-price match era, which is good for poor college students like myself (would I rather buy three books at $5 each than one book at $15? Yes.), but bad for nearly everyone involved in a book's life.

    There's lots of other issues with ebooks and paper books and discount hounds, but this comment is already long enough, lol. I hope it's coherent! I'm not too much awake in the thinking department at the moment-- too many nights staying up late reading. :D