Prices and writing

In response to the stir that a certain unnamed website has made in the book world, here are some points that I think need more notice than they’re getting.

The current problem is “pricing”, specifically “e-book pricing”.  Now, in a nutshell, this website is trying to get a certain publisher to lower the prices on their books, so the website is more attractive to readers buying books.  Not a bad idea if that’s as far as you look.

However, before you take sides in the affair (if you haven’t already), consider these points.

First, lowering book prices means EVERYONE involved is worse off. Including readers.  This may not seem so at first glance.  Lower book prices are GOOD for readers.  I agree, for the short-term.  Heck, as an avid reader who can down a 500 page fantasy in two days or less, I would love for books to be less expensive.

However, what happens when there is less money?  Publishers and writers don’t want to make books, because (for example) 5$ for a book gets them 50 cents profit.  Even the cliched “penniless author” can’t live on that.  Of course, this is an extreme example, but you get the drift.  The more you lower the prices, the less people want to write.  Eventually, readers aren’t going to get any more books, because authors have to have a second job to live.

Second, every time you drop a paper-back or e-book because you don’t want to pay 10$ instead of 5$ or 7$ or 9$, you basically just told that author you didn’t consider his hard work worth the price of a hamburger.  If you don’t like the author, fine.  There’s a lot of writers I wouldn’t pay 50 cents to read.  But what if it’s your favorite author?  Or a brand-new writer, just getting a foot in the business.  Nice going.  That extra two dollars (the price of a pack of gum) was too high a price to support someone trying to make a living?

Third, ask yourself this: you pay 10$ or more to go see a movie.  Once.  Then, if you want to see it again, you have to pay another 10$, buy the DVD for 20$, or wait till it hits the bargain bin for 10$… several years later.  It’s rare to see a paper-back or e-book that costs more than 15$.  These writers are asking you to give them the price of a movie ticket, in return for something that you can read OVER and OVER again, until the pages wear away.  So…… wanna go see a movie?


I hope these three points give you something to think about, regardless of which side of the debate you are on.  They certainly gave me enough to think over while writing.  Sure, the big picture is business vs. business and we need to look at the people stuck in the middle: readers and writers.  But let’s do it in the long-term.  That’s where the risks are.

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