Let me tell you up front, this isn’t going to go the way you think it is.
I’ve been meaning to rewrite a post like this for a long time. I wrote one on my old blog years ago and, in fact, am going to cannibalize some of it here, ‘cuz I wrote it in a better mood then. I’ve been meaning to redo it for this blog and finally, Memorial Day, today is the day. I guess I’m honoring a veteran blog post, as well as our real veterans today.
But first, I mentioned Deadpool 2. My wife and I went and saw it last night, having heard, “It’s everything the first movie was, but more so!”
My official review then: “Meh.”
Not as good as the first one. Still funny, unnecessarily violent, meta-fictional in that he talked about it being a movie while it was a movie. There was some deeper character stuff in the afterlife and emotional stuff, but for the most part… Kinda disappointing. The best part of the whole thing was the extra ending after the initial credits play.
I also went into the theatre last night thinking that I was going to write my ebook pricing rant today, so I was doing research. Keeping receipts. For my wife and I to have a night out at the movies cost 8 bucks per ticket (that’s with the military discount). Our medium popcorn and single large drink to share cost 12 bucks, for a total of $28 for a movie that was fun, entertaining, but did not meet my expectations. (Should have seen Solo…) Luckily the babysitter (my mom) was free.
We also went out for Vietnamese pho for dinner, at about the same price. So $28 x 2 = $56 for a (let’s face it) rather forgettable evening out. Kinda stings the ole pocket book.
Now we get to the meat of this rant: Ebook prices.
Most of you are probably thinking, Yeah, why do they cost so damn much?
Well, that’s not exactly the angle I’m going with here.
Although, if you’re talking about the Big Five publishers and their best-selling mega-hit fiction from household name authors, Yes, I agree, they do cost probably more than they should. They charge the same for an ebook as they do a paperback, or sometimes even a hardback, even though there’s no material and no physical shipping costs or warehousing to speak of. Yeah, they probably could charge less for the electronic version, given actual costs on their part.
But guess what? Most of you guys are paying it. Over and over again.
When I check the top five “Most Sold” ebooks right now on Amazon, four of them cost $14.99 and one costs $13.99.
Now, jump to the opposite side of the spectrum and the source of my angst.
The big trend of independent ebook authors right now (and since the dawn of ebooks and indie publishing several years ago) is to charge next to nothing for your books. Most indie novels are going for $2.99.
Does anyone see a problem with that? Most of you as readers are saying, Nope, no problem here! You’re buying the cheap indie books at 3, 4 or 5 bucks, enjoying them almost as much, or as much, and sometimes even more than the $15 books. And then many are turning around and buying the $15 books too. Because the reading experience is actually worth that 15 bucks to you. Otherwise you wouldn’t pay it.
So why are those books worth $15 and these other ones worth a third or a fifth or even a fifteenth as much?
The truth is, many of those indie reading experiences are worth just as much as the pricy, household name, mega-corp books.
And some of them are not, let’s face it. But you don’t know until you read it. And some of those $15 super-author books aren’t worth $3. It’s all up to the reader to decide. I know I’ve read some “bestsellers” and wondered, Who keeps paying that guy or gal to do that job?
The truth is, it’s mostly the indie authors’ faults. They have low expectations of their own work so they set low prices. And therefore set low expectations for their readers too. They’ve brought the market price too low, and dragged the readers down with them.
So the general price of indie (read low expectation) ebooks is generally $2.99 to $4.99. And some go as low as $0.99. For a novel. Hundreds of pages that will equate to a week or two or more of entertainment, depending on your reading habits.
Let’s a do quick comparison to other things we spend our money on…
- I already mentioned going out to the movies. $8 to $12 per ticket, as much for 50 cents worth of popped corn and just as much for a large cup of diabetes-inducing sugar water. Lasts about 2 hours (longer if you actually develop the diabetes).
- A movie rented at home via fancy digital services. Almost as much as going out! About 6 bucks for a 2 hour movie, which again, you may or may not enjoy. And once you start the damn thing, you only have 24 hours to watch the rest. You pay 6 bucks to sit on your couch and they slap a time limit on it. An ebook? Take your time. In fact, if you consume the whole thing in 24 hours, you probably didn’t chew well enough.
- ATM fees. This one really burns my buns to think about. It costs $3, even $4, for the “convenience” of using an ATM machine that isn’t specifically for your bank. So people pay as much or more just to get money out than they want to pay for a week’s worth of entertainment in an ebook!
- Fast food. Knowing I had a ways to go until dinner yesterday, I went through the drive through just for a snack to hold me over. One Wendy’s junior cheeseburger: $1.49. Add some crappy white lettuce and a slice of tomato: $1.99. A whole meal: about $6. Not too bad. But certainly not as satisfying or nourishing as a full-length novel.
- Starbucks premium coffee. I’ll hold on this because I reblog it below, but for me, it’s sometimes the cost of renting table space for a couple hours so I can find a quiet escape to write the actual book that I will eventually turn around and sell. At this rate, the cost of renting table space is about the same for half a chapter as readers have been trained to pay for the whole damn book.
- Pack of smokes. For those who just don’t believe yet that they cause a slow, painful, and expensive death. It depends on the state, but my research shows a minimum of $6 per pack to as much as $15 per pack in New York! (Chemotherapy, hospital stays, and funeral: hundreds of thousands, maybe millions.)
So that’s two unhealthy addictions (caffeine and nicotine) that you pay for daily without thought, but perhaps flinch at when you see a book priced at the same amount. (Hey, I’m also a nurse, it’s my job to talk to you like this!)
Yes, I’m ranting. It’s a pet peeve of mine, this pricing thing. I bounce around a lot, looking for that “sweet spot” that will encourage people to try my stuff. Low expectations drag the prices down for everyone (and set low expectations of what’s inside the book, too), while the big publishers go the other way and people follow them there.
The truth is, the prices should probably be somewhere in the middle. And if we expect more from ourselves and our work, and set the prices just a little bit higher, that confidence will probably equate to more sales and higher expectations from readers. But not everyone follows that logic. And we, as indies struggling to follow our dreams and do what we love while still being stuck in a day job to pay the bills, have to meander around trying to see what readers will tolerate from us.
Okay, I’ve exhausted myself now. I’ll stop.
Below this point are a few more examples, copied, pasted, and updated from my original blog post way back in 2014: http://brinkschaostheory.blogspot.com/2014/07/ebook-prices-comparative-shopping.html
Enjoy your Memorial Day. And thank you to my fellow veterans.
* * *
Some people say that an ebook isn’t worth spending more than three or four dollars on. So let’s expand our comparison beyond books. What about other things we buy in our day-to-day lives? How much do they cost, how much enjoyment do we get from them, and how long to they stick with us?
- A gallon of gas. Right now, about $3 per gallon. Do I enjoy it? Enjoy gasoline? No. Does it have staying power? Does my experience with that gallon of gasoline stick with me in my memories or bring new ideas or horizons into my life? Well, I guess if I’m traveling to new exotic places with it, then it might, but for the most part I don’t even notice that it’s been spent and is now gone. Unless it was the last one in the tank; at that point, I’m definitely not enjoying the experience.
- A cup of Starbucks premium coffee. Shall we say about $4.00, give or take? Did you enjoy it? Sure. By now, for many people, it’s a requirement to get their day started. Takes you maybe twenty minutes to drink it if you take the time to savor it. Caffeine buzz sticks with you for a while, depending on your tolerance. But sooner or later, you pee it all back out and it’s gone. (In fact, the caffeine tells your kidneys to open the flood gates.)
- Cheap fast food meal. Big mac, fries, and a coke: $5.69. I might enjoy the first few bites, then start to feel guilty, then disgusted. I don’t finish it but still feel sick for the next hour. About a year later, I forget how crappy I felt and think, I haven’t had one of those for a while… Repeat nauseating experience annually.
- Inexpensive, decent meal out. Ten to twelve bucks a person. Tastes good, gets me and the family out of the house, relatively healthy, worth the price. Does it stick with me? Well, I remember I like to eat there, but the meal itself gets introduced to the Tidy Bowl Man sooner or later. Flush and it’s gone, along with the money. Took me an hour to eat it, if I really enjoyed it, and fifteen to twenty minutes to excrete it, if I took my time and enjoyed that too.
- Moderately expensive meal out. Let’s say at Olive Garden, where I was recently shocked to see what it really did cost for my wife and I to have a night out. Just you by yourself, an entree, drink, and appetizer: about $25.00, probably more. Was it good? Sure, pretty tasty, but nothing to write home about. Gets flushed eventually, but maybe I carry an extra inch around my waist for a while. Not really the kind of lingering effect I’m looking for though.
How about a good book? Costs you, say, five to eight bucks in electronic form. (Or should, anyway.) Takes you a week or two to read, maybe more. Sticks with you forever. And even if it doesn’t, you can always go back and read it again. For free this time. As many times as you want. What’s that you say? It wasn’t as good as you expected? Neither was that fancy meal you ate, and that cost more and gave you the runs for two days.
Maybe paying more than 3 bucks for an ebook is a pretty fair deal after all.