Why you shouldn’t balk at e-book prices

I was talking with someone I barely knew recently about how much a typical hardcover costs and the comparative price of any book’s digital version. She commented that paying $12.99 for the e-version of a hardcover novel that retails in print for $26.99 seems unfair. After all, there is no paper or ink involved. No shipping costs. No physical cost at all, was her point. What is the thirteen dollars for?

I know this person hadn’t thought this through when she asked, which is why I didn’t pounce on the obvious; that the thirteen dollars is a tiny, very tiny, part of my bi-annual paycheck. Writing books is what I do for a living. The thirteen dollars (of which I only get a percentage) is for me so that I can eat, pay my mortgage, wear clothes, and put gas in my car – all the things this same person does with the money she gets in her paycheck.

What I said instead though, is also true. The thirteen dollars you spend on any e-book of a hardcover, I told her, is for the eight hours of amazing, gripping, suspenseful, or insightful entertainment it gives you, depending on the genre of the book. Thirteen dollars buys you one movie ticket for two hours of the same kind of ride but then it’s over, I said. You walk out of the theater and own nothing but the memory of having watched it. That e-book that you buy for the same thirteen dollars provides four times the hours of pleasure and, hey, you get to keep it and read it again. Or share with a friend. That thirteen-dollar movie ticket works out to about $6.50 cents an hour for the experience. The e-book at the same price is closer to $1.62 for the joy it gives you. You read an e-book, and you’re paying only $1.62 an hour for its author to whisk you away. And again, the traditionally published author gets only a portion of that.

So when you think about it, both the print version of a book and its e-version are bargains. Bargains! Buy a $26 hardback, read it for eight hours and you’ve only paid $3.25 an hour for that experience. If you read the book again, you’ll pay only $1.13 an hour for the escape into those pages.

What else can you buy for $26 or $13 and get eight hours of delight that you can re-experience as many times as you want?

I suppose you could buy a couple Frisbees and some hula hoops or a board game, but just think about the creative effort that goes into writing a book – it takes me a year or longer to write one – compared to the effort that goes into manufacturing a toy off the assembly line that looks just like the one before it and the one after it.

Books are uniquely unique. They are written by individual people who often write instead of doing some other job.

Books are tickets and passports to other times and places where you get to experience other lives.

And for that e-book that contains no paper and ink, it’s all for the bargain price of $1.62 an hour. Pretty amazing when you stop to think about it. And everyone should, I think. Stop and think about it.

Author: Susan

This post has 19 Comments

  1. Melissa Henderson on March 2, 2018 at 11:23 pm

    Thank you for this message. I agree with you. 🙂

  2. Sophie Littlefield on March 3, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    Right on, girl!

  3. Karol on March 3, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    Makes a very good point!

  4. Jill Anderson on March 3, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    This is so true! I won’t even get into the $ people will pay for a couple of drinks at a bar, or a couple of spiffed-up coffees that will all be gone in about an hour.
    And I won’t get into people who ask an author to donate their book to a small library or book club where endless people will read it for free while the author doesn’t get a dime.
    I could go on and on, but you made an excellent point and example of how a book (whether eBook or print) is one heck of a deal!

  5. Susan on March 3, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks, Jill! I agree that a whole lot of $$ gets spent on coffee drinks that are loaded with sugar and fat grams and therefore not even good for you! Books, on the other hand, are zero calories and fat grams!

  6. Susan on March 3, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    Thank you, Karol 🙂

  7. Susan on March 3, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks, Sophie! 🙂

  8. Susan on March 3, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    Thanks, Melissa!

  9. Laura on March 6, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    Sometimes e-books are even less. I bought an e-book today that has 10 short stories (novellas? They’re 5 chapters eaeach, I believe.) in it by 9 authors (one author did two) and it was $2.47. $2.47. For 10 stories, most of which are by authors I haven’t previously read, but have wanted to. And with this book, the proceeds go to charity! Not that being for charity makes it more important than one that isn’t. I would just think that might be a case where the authors could charge a little more.

  10. Chris Hutto on March 13, 2018 at 4:16 am

    I just finished reading As Bright As Heaven!! Wow! What a wonderful story written in such an interesting way. I could not put it down! Historical fiction is my favorite genre to read. This told me about the flu pandemic of 1918 that I knew little about. My grandmother lost a sister then to the flu. She was an Army nurse. I have the pocket watch she wore pinned to her uniform. For years I had wanted to be a nurse like her, but my life path changed when the love of my life was hospitalized and I realized I could not do the job of a nurse. Instead I taught children to read for 33 years and loved every minute. Thank you for such a beautiful story!

  11. Janice J. Richardson on March 13, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Good article. I don’t agree necessarily, but respect the POV. There are many who cannot afford to pay for a ‘good’ book. As an author, I choose to keep my costs low so everyone has an equal opportunity. Mind you, I don’t make a living at it, but reviews and sales are fair and I can reach all audiiences.

  12. Susan on March 14, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    I hear you, Janice! I have some of my backlisted Kindle offerings at low cost, too, to make them accessible to those on a budget. Thanks for commenting!

  13. Susan on March 14, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Thanks so very much, Chris!! (And thanks for spending three decades teaching children to read. You’re a hero!)

  14. Susan on March 14, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    I think some e-books are priced below normal for the purpose of introducing readers to writers they might not have heard of. The bargain-priced e-book is a like a discovery tool then, connecting new readers to authors.

  15. Vickie Huffman on April 1, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    Oh my just finished my first Susan meissner book called A Fall of Marigolds it was really awesome ?great job ????can’t wait to read another from her

  16. Susan on April 3, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks, Vickie!

  17. Stacy on April 8, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Such great points, Susan. People just don’t understand what goes into writing a book – aside from months (years?) of development, if you’re self-published (as I am) there are the costs of cover development, professional editing, formatting, etc. And to be expected to give it away for free, or even an ebook for $.99 is pretty depressing! Thanks for sharing this.

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