The cost of an E-book

I recently got into a discussion with a fan over the cost of an E-book. He was objecting to the price cost $2.99 book that was “only 160 pages long”.

This is part of my response, but I’d like to go into more detail:

“It’s the way things are often done now. Due to the nature of the market place / internet, books by indie authors tend to be shorter and serialized. We don’t have the backing to sit on a book for a year and produce a 600 page tome. Also, a lot of it has to do with Amazon prices structure. Anything BELOW $2.99 gives a 30% royalty rate, above gives 70%. So for a $2.99 book I get $2.09, for a $2.98 book I get $0.88, so my royalty drops by more than half. A $2.00 book nets me $0.60.”

So, in essence, Amazon is almost forcing authors to charge $2.99, at a minimum. Yes, it’s possible to make the same profit by going the $0.99 cents route, but then I would have to sell seven times as many books, which I don’t think is going to happen. Also, that price number carries a bit of a stigma, in that they seem to be more of a “throwaway book” or promotion.

Now, let’s look at things we’re willing to pay far much more for:

Burger King Quarter-Pounder Meal: About $8.00, depending on where you live. And you’re hungry again in a few hours. (As well as not eating very healthily!) Maybe not a fair comparison, because, hey, you have to eat, but feeding your imagination is often just as important as eating!

Or instead, consider a movie ticket: Anywhere from $12 to $20. A movie which, once watched, you have to pay to see again, unless you buy it on DVD or watch online, which you pay for. Sure, movies are great entertainment, but as I said, once seen, they are gone, unless you purchase at, say, $14 for the DVD.

Now let’s look at how much work I, the author, puts into a book that I’m selling to you. It’s an individual relationship between you and I, as seller to purchaser. I’m selling you something that I’ve put probably hundreds of hours of work into. Even for “only 162 pages”. Those 162 pages, roughly fifty thousand words, are a work that took months of plot planning, typing, revisions, edits,, reedits, etc. Of course, I’m also selling it to many more people, (millions, hopefully!) but I’m just asking you to look at the value of what you, the individual, are getting.

A book is yours. You own it. You read it. You use your imagination to build a world in your mind as I’ve described it. Sure, I wrote it, but really 90% of what it looks like is in your head. With a movie or a burger, you’re consuming what you’re being fed. With a book, you’re joining me in creating a work of art in your mind. That alone is invaluable, immeasurable, priceless. Show me another medium (besides maybe an open world video game ) that brings you the same opportunity.

And here’s the kicker: You can go back to that world again and again. I have favorite books that I have read possibly twenty or thirty times over the years. So for that $2.99, you’re getting a lifetime investment that will ALWAYS be there to satisfy your hunger, as opposed to that movie or burger, which is gone once you consume it.

An e-book that you enjoy for several hours, maybe time and again, is half the price of a Starbucks Latte. The e-book took dozens, maybe hundreds of hours, to create and write, and a whole lot of mental exhaustion. The Latte costs Starbucks maybe two minutes of a workers’s time (sum total for the corporation, from bean to foamy drink) and probably $0.15 worth of ingredients, if that. One is gone in 15 minutes, leaving you wanting more. The other is with you the rest of your life.

I’ll leave you to decide which is the greater value.

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