What is an ebook worth?

A post from Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds: what is an ebook worth?

Chuck is one of the few sensible voices chiming in on the ongoing Hatchette / Amazon mudwrestling contest. I think his post about ebook pricing hits an important nail on its head. Actually, I think he’s been hitting nails dead on all through the H / A tussle — it’s been a pleasure to read his posts about this.

I could sum this particular nail up in about fifteen words, though: Stuff is worth what people are willing to pay for it. Ebooks included. Period. No need for a long post about it.

I’m tired of people trying to claim that ebooks are especially overpriced compared to other things. Do you know how much your vet pays for that rabies shot for your puppy? The one that cost you $25 or whatever? About $0.25. That is because you are paying for more than the actual shot. I’m sure no one is surprised by this. Good God, this is kindergarten economics, here.

It was Scalzi who recently put it this way: “You know what, if you’ve ever paid more than twenty cents for a soda at a fast food restaurant, or have ever bought bottled water at a store, then I feel perfectly justified in considering your cost of production position vis a vis publishing as entirely hypocritical. Please stop making the cost of production argument for books and apparently nothing else in your daily consumer life.”

Yeah. Pick anything. Pop-tarts! I bet they cost only pennies to produce. Hey, I wonder how much it *actually cost* those guys at the tire place to patch my tire this morning? I bet I got totally ripped off! Except no, because that’s not how it works here in the real world.

Frankly, I thought Hatchette’s CEO was pretty persuasive with this letter. Because it is silly on its face to think that all ebooks are worth the same amount, or no ebooks are ever worth more than $9.99. What rot. If people are willing to pay $14.99 for a particular ebook, then they are, and it’s actually, objectively worth more than other ebooks. If that’s just because lots of people know about it and no one has ever heard of an equally great book recently self-published by some guy, well, having lots of people know about your book objectively increases its actual worth.

Obviously Ilona Andrews’ latest Kate Daniels book is worth more than $9.99, because lo, there it is on Amazon right now for $10.99. Somebody plainly thinks people are willing to pay that extra buck for this book, and I’m sure they’re right. I may eventually buy it for that price myself, even though I really want the mass market paperback because that’s what I have the rest of the series in.

I’ve got books out from Hatchette. I like Hatchette, though not as much as I like Random House just now, since I have a current contract with the latter. I love my contract with Random House. (I love my agent.) In the near future I’ll self-publish and there I’ll be, looking into what Amazon can do for me, and I expect that I’ll like Amazon well enough, too.

Anyway, I wish more people would take their tone from Chuck Wendig and John Scalzi on this. It’s refreshing to see that neither is startled to find that Giant Corporations are interested primarily in their own bottom line, and both are pointing out that traditional Big Five publishing is actually a good deal for some writers; self-publishing a good deal for others; and swinging both ways a good deal for others.

Okay, I expect that’s the first and last time I’ll mention the H / A kerfuffle here. If you weren’t aware there was This Thing going on in the first place, fine, go back to ignoring it. I doubt very much the world is going to end for writers or readers however it comes out.

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2 thoughts on “What is an ebook worth?”

  1. Thanks, Darren! Yes, I did, and yes, it was a touch on the bizarre side. Chuck is hilarious when pointing this out.

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