walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

eBook Price Points

I really enjoying checking in at http://www.the-digital-reader.com. The biggest bummer about Mr. Hoffelder's blog is the guest posts. And one of the biggest bummers about the guest posts is Rich Adin. But every once in a while, the foolishness is too juicy to just ignore.

He starts out strong:


His TBR list is growing and it is mostly filled with free ebooks. Enough of these free ebooks are enjoyable and satisfying to him to not discourage him from trying more, and the supply of enjoyable and satisfying free ebooks is large enough that he only rarely pays for an ebook. This makes justifying the purchase of an ereader (or multiple ereaders) dead easy, but he's wondering how authors and publishers can survive on free. Here's a little hint, because Mr. Adin doesn't seem to understand what's going on: "The first one's free."

Here is Mr. Adin's theory about what's going on. It's probably a pretty _good_ theory in terms of what's going on in Mr. Adin's head. I do not think it maps all that great to the rest of the reading public.

"A reader who gets burned once spending $14.99 on a poorly written, poorly formatted, or nonproofread ebook, especially when they are nonreturnable, is unlikely to be willing to spend $14.99 again in hopes that the next purchase won’t be a repeat sucker purchase. Instead, such a reader is likely to move down the price chain."

So here's the deal. Most people who are engaged in escapist reading are not particularly concerned about the quality of the writing, the formatting or the proofreading, unless they are so bad that it detracts from the narrative thrust of the tale being told. If there is no narrative thrust, the best writing, formatting and proofing in the world will not help. If there is narrative thrust, we'll plow through a lot of crap just to find out what happens. And, by the way, Mr. Adin, since the hint didn't work, that's how this whole free thing works. Convince me that this writer has what I want and I'll pay to get more of the same. Especially if it's a series, because I particularly want to know more about _these_ characters in _this_ universe.

EVEN IF people did care about writing/formatting/proofing, I'm at a loss to understand why someone would buy cheaper goods when confronted with low quality at a particular price point. Generally speaking, when I'm unhappy with the quality, I do a couple of things. I identify the miscreant responsible and make sure I don't buy more from them (Oldsmobile leaving the rings out of a 98 some time in the mid 1970s. No I will _not_ ever forget that, and I _will_ hold GM responsible for time and all eternity, because it was really clear almost immediately that this was not an isolated incident.). I try to find a trusted source who has assessed alternatives and use their experience to pick something better. And/or I move _up_ the price chain. That would be where "you get what you pay for" comes from.

Finally, Mr. Adin gets to the heart of the matter:

"I now scrutinize pbooks before buying because ebooks have made me more aware of poor writing and editing and less willing to spend money on such books — whether p or e. However, the closer the purchase price gets to zero, the more tolerant I am."

Let me tell you a story about my father and how he went from buying top shelf to bottom shelf. You know what? Never mind. Let's just say we hit a point in our relationship where I (not yet 21) would send him to the store to buy me a decent 6 pack of beer. The Alaskan Amber was selling, IIRC, for $6.99 for a 6 pack. He was happy buying 12 packs for $2.99 at the time. (Really, skunky doesn't even begin to cover it.) My dad and I had a long standing tradition of sharing drinks (since I was 2. You know, I think this might explain why my husband is so utterly certain that my parents are alcoholics), so I spotted him a bottle when he brought it home. He agreed that it was much, much, much better than the crap he was buying. But he also said there was no way he was spending $7 of his own money on a 6 pack when he could get it so much cheaper. This is an electrician who justified his position as a JW elder to spend thousands of dollars on wool suits, ties, dress shirts, etc. every year. An _electrician_.

If a young woman (I'm sure hoping I was 18 when this happened, altho I suspect I wasn't) is willing to spend an hour or two's worth of wages on a single six pack to get good beer, I'm pretty sure that same young woman will spend $2.99 (I believe that's Konrath's pick for sweet spot pricing on ebooks) to get the latest entry in whatever series she's reading, that she took a flyer on when the first book was available for free. Just because the old guy won't doesn't say a damn thing about the market for good beer.

ETA: I knew these two guys -- advanced degrees in computer science, smart guys -- who had a little routine they did. "What's the best beer?" "Free beer!" They both drank a lot of PBR. One of them played ultimate and had a routine involving 40s that was, I don't even know how to say it, breathtakingly stupid. I've tried some free ebooks, and some of them led me to buy the rest of the series (especially true when an entry in the series won an award and/or had truly amazing reviews by people I trusted); in general, really cheap/free ebooks have not been particularly enjoyable or satisfying for me. A lot like cheap beer.
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