The Weight of Words

There's a very interesting article in the Guardian book blog at the moment, discussing the pricing of ebooks compared to traditionally published books. It's very interesting and well worth checking out. I found the cost difference between publishing a paperback compared to a high quality hardcover to be extremely surprising. And of course, with the sea change in the way consumers have access to books now that epublishing has taken off exponentially, makes it all the more fascinating.

Because ebooks cost so little to produce and distribute than physical editions, should you pay considerably less for the electronic book? Or are you actually paying for the content - for the hours and hours of hard work and imagination that the writer put into their story?

Frankly, if it was just about production costs you'd have to virtually give all ebooks away. But that isn't the point, is it? It's the content you're really buying, just as with an MP3 that contains a musician's artistry and songwriting skill.

Now, with so many indie (self) publishers selling their novels at $0.99 (and some of them becoming bestsellers) and the big houses charging ten times that and upwards in many cases, the dust has yet to settle on what people are willing to pay for a downloaded copy of a book. Personally, I think the price of the book should reflect the quality of the content (and the size of the work to some degree); the price of production is, to my mind, irrelevant.

I also think that in time (perhaps a short time) those big houses will be dropping some of their prices to a more competitive level - at least with books from lesser-known authors. But for those big name authors with huge fan bases, well...I think Stieg Larsson and Danielle Steel can sleep easy for quite some time to come.


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