How much would you pay for a book? Or, to put it another way, how much is a book worth to you?
A couple of weeks back, I was chatting to an acquaintance about books. During our conversation my acquaintance stated that many ebooks are overpriced (he mentioned that some cost £7 or more), and given the low cost of producing electronic versions they should be more reasonably priced. He also went on to state that he bought many of his books in charity shops, with many retailing for as little as £0.50.
The above conversation made me consider the question, what is a book worth? My collection of poetry “My Old Clock I Wind” retails for £2.99 (for the ebook) and £10.99 (for the paperback). Turning to a comparison with the demon drink. I enjoy a refreshing pint of Fosters. In my favourite local the price is £4, so anyone drinking there can enjoy two and a half pints of my favourite tipple at a cost of £10. Alternatively they could (with the addition of £0.99) purchase the paperback edition of “My Old Clock”, or three copies of the ebook (and still have change from a £10 note).
While beer is refreshing it is, by its nature here then gone. In contrast a book can be read many times (whether in electronic or paperback/hardback format). So, weighing my work against the cost of a pint in my favourite local, my book is, in my view value for money. In fact why not do both (I.E. purchase a copy of my book, in any format and enjoy a pint while reading it)!
The above comparison is intended to be read in a light hearted manner. There is, however a serious point to all this. Some individuals who complain about paying £10.99 for a paperback (or £7 for an ebook) will think nothing of buying several rounds of drinks on a Friday evening. Anyone who drinks in central London will know that (depending on the number of people in the round) that this can leave the person paying with a bar bill of £50, and on occasions considerably more.
All this is not to say that some books are not overpriced. I do, for example find it odd when I see ebooks costing similar amounts to their paperback/hardback alternatives. While it is right that authors and publishers need to make a living, there is much less cost entailed in producing an ebook and all things being equal ebooks should (in my opinion) reflect the lesser cost entailed in their production.
As regards books in charity shops, everyone loves a bargain and most people get a warm feeling knowing that there cheap purchase is helping to support a worthy cause. However (to state the blatantly obvious) authors and publishers could not survive where all books to be bought and sold in the second-hand market. Someone has to buy the book fresh off the press, otherwise the whole show will grind to a juddering halt!
In conclusion, books are, in the final analysis (as with any other product or service) worth whatever the purchaser is prepared to pay. A person who is caught up in the social whirl may think nothing of spending £70 or £80 on a night on the town, but ask that same person to buy a paperback for £10.99 and he protests that it is overpriced. While it is undoubtedly true that some books are overpriced, the vast majority certainly are not.
As always I would be interested in my reader’s views.
Your post is very on point. I just published my first book as an ebook and paperback. One of the hardest choices I had to make was pricing. I finally settled on the prices that felt right for me. My paperback is a little more expensive to cover printing costs. And I resisted the temptation to price my ebook too low. For while it costs less to distribute, it still represents many hours of labor.
Many thanks for your comment and congratulations on the publication of your first book. I agree with you that many people (when thinking about the price of a book) fail to take into account the blood, sweat and tears exerted, over many long hours. Good luck with the sales. Could you link to your book please so that I and others can check it out? Kind regards, Kevin
Exactly, Kevin. I didn’t want to price too high or too low. For many readers it comes down to their preferred reading format. I hope that I’ve made the right choice, and prices can always be adjusted. As indie authors, I think we need to be careful not to undervalue our work. I’m including my blog post which includes my book links for both ebook and paperback. 🙂
Wishing you a wonderful week ahead!
Many thanks for providing the link, Brenda. As you say, it is always possible to adjust the price at a later date should this prove to be necessary. You too, have a good week! Kind regards, Kevin
The beauty of self-publishing is the author’s complete control over the process. A great feeling. And thank you. 🙂
I agree with you that the beauty of self-publishing lies in the author’s control over the process. Best, Kevin
One of the skills in the professional publishing industry was identifying the market slot for a particular title, which inevitably also guided the production values and budget. That’s still true to a large extent but it’s been accompanied now by the e-book revolution in which, unfortunately, the ‘race to the bottom’ (ultimately, ‘free’) took place some time ago. It’s led to a devaluation of the worth of authors to the point where a price that validates the costs of writing vs the likely lifetime sales of the title is viewed as ‘too expensive’ by likely buyers – a driving down of the market slot, in effect. The problem with e-books is that because they don’t carry printing or stock-holding costs there is a perception that they should be cheap, but in fact these costs are only a small part of the total cost of producing a book – which includes cover artwork, design, marketing, editorial costs and author returns.
The issue here is that even ‘indie’ authors (self-publishers) have to be aware of the way it all works because they are, in effect, their own publishers; and the costs cannot be avoided if the product is to compete. All this said, I think you’re right – people will pay what they think a book is worth, and bizarrely, the value calculation doesn’t seem to relate to what might be spent on a night’s entertainment. Or a round of beer in the pub!
Many thanks for your thoughtful response, Matthew. You make a good point about the concealed costs of ebooks (cover design etc) which are often not taken into account by readers when considering the retail price of electronic books. Best, Kevin
it’s all about picking the price people are prepared to pay. There is no great authoritative rule on how to price a book, it is, as you say, all about market forces.
Many thanks for your comment, Mick. It is about market forces, however I wish it where not so. But if wishes where horses then beggers might ride as a wise man once remarked.
All true that, Kevin.
The trouble is, a lot of people seem to think a writer can just sit down, scribble away for a bit, and have a finished book. They forget about the hours spent writing, revising, editing, formatting, etc. They forget about the costs involved in cover creation, and the parts the author has to pay out for during the process of getting a book ready for publication(such as editing and formatting in some cases). An eBook isn’t free to produce, but people don’t see that. I agree that an eBook should be priced lower than a paperback though.
Many thanks for your comments, Tori. I agree with the points you make and during the conversation (briefly detailed in the above post) I did raise those issues with the gentleman with whom I was conversing. Whether it will alter his view of the matter is up for debate. Kevin
At $0.03 a word, that makes 3,000 words (a single chapter or short story) worth $90. That’s not taking into account the cost of publication. The reality is, no one pays a writer that much for their labor – unless you’re someone like Stephen King, JK Rowling, or anyone else within their ranks (at which point, they’re being paid for their name AND labor). So… for me to pay $5.00-$6.00 for a paperback book of fiction, averaging easily around 100,000 words, is actually a steal.
Thank you for your insightful comment. As you say, its easier for a King or Rowling to sell books (at a relatively high price) than it is for most authors/poets.