My Bibliography

Saturday, 6 April 2013

E-books too cheap?

I found myself writing a response to another blog that posed the question 'are e-books too cheap?'  As usual my reply ended up being longer than their article and so I’m posting it here instead.  But the simple answer would be 'yes, yes they are.'

There is of course a lot of ranting about this subject matter in my world - indeed done so myself here in the past - something, actually, that I can scare myself with, ranting, in terms of just how well I can do that.  But that kind of honesty isn't received very well in general in a largely passive aggressive society; does nothing for my online presence, so I refrain from it for the most part these days.  With that in mind, I won't go on too much.

There's varying reasons as to why books are so under-priced but it never fails to astound me that the level of work that goes into creating a (well written) book is so undervalued - and not least of which by the author themselves. 

What other profession where such high level of skill is demanded can be paid for by the consumer with only pennies?  It's offensive to me that people think nothing of paying $5.00 or higher for a cup of coffee that's been generically percolated in minutes - oftentimes more than once a day - and yet balk at paying $2.99 for a book that's been months, or even years, in the making, a product that can provide days or weeks of pure reading pleasure that can induce a better high than caffeine, or even accompany that if you're like me and totally addicted to the stuff - but something definitely wrong with that picture - the book thing, not the coffee; nothing wrong with that at all.

Even if you have written an amazing book that should sell at a comparatively decent price, unless you have the art of marketing down, and even then, you probably won't sell any more even if you do completely under-price - that's one mistake authors make all too often, I feel.  Make it free, in general, for whatever reason (and there may be some validity to doing this for promotional purposes) and many won't value it at all - in fact whole forums dedicated to listing freebies on a daily basis are filled with people 'over-frothing' their e-readers for the sake of it - are they really going to even look at a book priced at the outrageous sum of 99c when they have so many freebies readily available in the hopes that they'll find the odd gem?   Frankly, I'm amazed that books are even allowed to be free on an on-going basis by the distributors.  What else in this life is?... well... outside of all that insightful enlightenment you hear about.  And if some people are so unimaginative that they can't manage to find any of that for themselves... well then... they should have to pay for gleaning it from others who work extremely hard at depositing their insights and inventiveness in the form of stories.  Just sayin'.

Unfortunately one reason is because of the slush pile available publicly; authors feel pressured into lowering their prices, trying, and usually failing, to get noticed.  Why should the reader have to pay for your work when they can get something else for nothing, or next to it?  Yes, outrageous to have to pay for the months of very real slogging that a true writer undertakes to bring you a story.  Indeed, I hope the comic books are separated from the encyclopaedias sooner rather than later - perhaps when untrained writers come to realize that it might be easy enough to publish a book, but not so easy to create a product that's actually worth the time they spend doing that, that they're simply bogging the rest of us down, those of us who are serious about it; striving to be the best writers we can be, not just for our benefit, but the reader's too.  Surely to God that's worth the pennies lying around in your car's coffee cup holder?

Did I say I wasn't going to go on too much...?  Ah well.


  1. Ours has become a throwaway society that expects to get much for little indeed. What bother me the most is how many people really don't get how time-consuming the production of art can be, or the production of anything for that matter (just think of all the lines of HTML code are making this web page possible). And yet, AND YET the person who wrote that code is making a living while the writer toiling away is expected to give their prose away for the sake of mere recognition.

  2. Scandalous Jeri... scandalous!

  3. The belief is, anybody can do it. This is a false belief but it is still prevalent. When you look at the ability to code, people believe it takes training and talent to do that.

    I will now (you show through life you have lived right) bring up a cooking analogy. Cooks are vastly underpaid. It is believed that any one can cook, so the work that goes into becoming good at it and feeding the public is treated as a meanial labor. Cooking like writing is something anyone can do. But the difference between cooking/writing at a basic level and cooking/writing at a professional level are night and day.

    In a professional kitchen you are putting out 100 plates of food a night on average. You are not feeding your own family, you are feeding everyone's family. Most people do not realize this or even think about this. Cooking is a non issue. Just as writers are unseen. Their books magically appear.

    I just realized I am preaching to the choir right now. I shall cease and decist. Wait, one more, it annoys the hell out of me sometimes when people are so self absorbed that they have no clue what goes into the creation of anything. They just blindly accept that it is there and costs nothing to produce.

  4. Thanks Jon, you're right; many things in life are taken for granted, we should all remember that if anything is done well, then it takes training and skill.


Feel free to comment.