Readers come in all types. Some buy hardcovers, others wait for paperback, some only borrow from libraries, and still others buy the super-deluxe collector’s edition of their favorites.
I’ve always thought of myself as a paperback reader who would spring for the hardcover for “keeper” books, but the ebook revolution is making me take a closer look at my reading habits. I’m adding more to my to-be-read pile (in both the ebook and paper book versions of that pile) than ever before. And that means I have to analyze how I’m spending my book money more than I did before.
Are We Too Reluctant to Spend Money on Books?
A while back, Roni Loren had a great post on her blog about the price of books and why a good story should be worth more than a cheeseburger. She pointed out that we often spend twenty bucks for a two-hour movie or a mediocre meal, and yet we balk at spending that much for a book that will entertain us for hours upon hours. Why?
Roni gave a lot of reasons, from this being the Walmart discount generation to the many self-publishers listing their books at $o.99 while hoping readers give them a chance. But she also mentioned the downside of authors going along with these low-price expectations:
“[W]e’re teaching people what we’re worth. Authors are undervaluing themselves and their books. Something that takes you six months or a year to write … shouldn’t be the same price as the Christmas pencils in the dollar bin at Target.”
Print books have built-in expenses preventing the race to the bottom, but ebooks don’t. We’ve quickly gotten used to the idea that ebooks can be cheap. So the question my wallet has been asking me is, how much should an ebook cost? Should it be the same price as a paperback or cheaper?
Personally, I hate paying very much for an ebook and I wondered why I had that attitude. After all, as a writer, shouldn’t I be supportive of other authors wanting to make a living? My answer was “Yes, but…” *smile*
How Do We Judge the Price of an Ebook?
Ebooks do have a different intrinsic value than paper books. If I have a choice between a paper book and an ebook at the same (or even close to the same) price, I’ll choose the paper book every time. And yes, I love the smell and the feel of real books, but my reasons go deeper than that.
- DRM: DRM (digital rights management) is what prevents us from being able to copy a book from one format or computer to another. I shouldn’t have to worry about whether I’ll feel like reading a book on my desktop computer, my laptop, or my Kindle before buying it.
- Ownership: This goes along with DRM in that we don’t feel like we own something if we can’t do what we want with it. Also Amazon has taught us that we don’t really own ebooks, as they’ve pulled books out of users’ Kindle libraries before. *loads gun* I’d like to see someone try to take one of my paper books off my bookshelves. Hah!
- Quality: Too many ebooks have formatting errors and are of general poor quality. This goes for self-published and traditional published books. As Jane pointed out at the Dear Author blog: “[I]f the higher priced goods are crappy, then readers might as well pay $.99 instead of $7.99.” And don’t get me started on authors who figure that because they can easily upload corrections, they don’t have to even try to make their books perfect.
- Physicality: I like being able to easily flip back pages to remind myself “who was that character again?” I like being able to turn a book that I didn’t enjoy into something positive by giving it away or donating it, rather than the pfft-gone nature of deleting unwanted ebooks. In other words, I like books to be tangible.
All that said, I love my Kindle and have no plans to give it up. But there are definite “cons” against ebooks that I take into consideration when deciding how much to spend.
My Take on Ebook Prices
I buy many of the $0.99 ebooks, figuring that something has to be pretty bad for it not to be worth a buck. (And there have been some at that price that I didn’t buy after checking out the free sample.) I don’t usually question spending $1.99 either. At $2.99, I expect professional quality and the book has to be at least a decent-sized novella or I’ll feel ripped off. At $3.99 and up, the book had better be a full-length novel and any mistakes will be judged harshly. And I don’t think I’d pay more than $6.99 for an ebook because I believe they’re worth less than a paperback for all the reasons I listed above.
But I wonder if I’m off-base in how I view ebooks. I’m also the type of person who pages back on ebooks so I start “properly” at the cover and not at the content page where Kindle usually opens files. (Yes, I really do that.) So share your thoughts in the comments and let me know if you think I’m crazy (about ebook stuff, if you go off on tangents about other ways I’m crazy, we’ll be here all day). *smile*
What kind of a book-buyer are you? Hardcovers, paperbacks, or ebooks? Is there an upper limit to how much you’ll spend on an ebook? Is it different than your limit for paper books? If so, why?Pin It