Friday, 1 April 2011

I'm Not Paying That!

By Richard Jay Parker

Was having a discussion about ebooks this week and the person I was debating with raised the inevitable question of cost.

'I mean, how much does it (an ebook) cost to produce...'

It was a fair point. Overheads for ebooks are certainly lower for publishers - no print run implications etc

But you can apply the same argument to a paperback. They're also cheap to produce but a standard cover price has to be maintained. Why? Because you're not just paying for the paper and glossy cover. The writer's intellectual property aside there's an army of talented people involved in its production - editors, designers, sales and promo experts.

You wouldn't look at a priceless painting and say - 'How much? It's only canvas and oils.'

I'm certainly not claiming that every book is a masterpiece but creative product can't be judged on the basis of what its made of or the small amount of memory it requires.

But I don't get as passionate about the ebook vs paperback argument as others. I think there's room for both. Both formats have advantages and I think readers are grown up enough to make the choice between which one is most convenient for them.

Books age. Ebook formats will change and a book you buy for one reader may not be the reader you have in ten years time.

Your imagination won't discriminate. The most important thing is to carry on reading.



  1. I dunno the reality is that the price of an oil painting by a famous person has an arbitrary cost which has nothing to do with the cost of materials! Many ebooks priced at $4 are priced about right I think

  2. I don't mind paying a decent price for e-books, as long as they're delivered in a way that allows me to unjustify the text on my iPhone, but I still think they should be a bit cheaper than paperbacks, in recognition of lower production costs.

    I would actually be happy to pay the same price as a paperback if I thought that it allowed the author to make a bit more money, in the same way that CDBaby pays musicians more than iTunes.

  3. Well, the e-book vs paperback debate is not a real problem. The real problem is that those who champion e-books want them to be priced lower than paperbacks while the hardcover book is out.

    Hardcovers are in one way overpriced, but as several people have pointed out, you are not just paying for the hardcover format but also for reading the book early.

    Any argument that e-books should cost $5 is also an argument for holding off the release of the e-book until the paperback is out.
    If you want your e-book at the same time as the hardcover release, you will just have to pay $12.99 or whatever price it is set at. Arguing for anything else is like arguing for $5 DVDs to be released at the same time the movie premiers at the cinema.

  4. Thanks, Roxy. My point exactly. One person's masterpiece is another person's poison and has nothing to do with the material it's composed of. Reading is also a subjective experience and if one reader thinks a book is a stinker they're going to regret any money they spent on it. If it's fantastic then the consolation is they've still paid the same price. What that price should be is still open to debate.

    Hi devo347. Think that's a very reasonable argument. The situation with downloadable music has many parallels. There's also the controversial argument that people downloading free music have sampled music they wouldn't have tried before and ended up buying the albums and boosting the sales of those artists.

    Thanks, Weirdimage. Agree. As a reader/viewer I've never been one to queue round the block to pay more for a product based on obtaining it immediately. However, publishers have always made money this way and it's been a more or less an accepted practice.

  5. My publisher has asked me to keep my e-book price at around £7.50 so that it doesn't undervalue the hardback (mine cost £18.99). It would be silly of me to price my e-books thus, particularly when my hardback sales have tapered off to nought. It's the market that drives prices, and if I hold my e-book price according to my publisher's wishes, I won't sell a bean.