Sunday, May 20, 2007
A few of the larger epublishers have increased their cover prices recently. My first reaction was similar to many reader-bloggers out there. $8 or more for an ebook? I could get a paperback for that and still have change left over! That's too much. After all, a book is a book and you shouldn't pay more to have it only in digital format.
And then to be fair I was aware that most epublishers are small presses and so do not have the economy of scale of large offset printing publishers. Also, it is reasonable to charge whatever the customer is willing to pay--and ebook sales are going inexorably upwards. Besides, even if sales dropped a little, the profit per unit would probably more than make up the difference. Publishers are there to make money, after all.
Ebooks, it seems, can be $8 even if that doesn't seem completely rational. The closest equivalent would be a $4 cup of coffee. When Starbucks first came to New Zealand I was astonished. The coffee was so-so, very expensive and outlets were opened within sight of each other. Now I buy coffee there on average once a day. I don't intend to, I don't think it is worth the money, and yet there I am again, cash in hand.
I saw a new article recently that teased out some of the reasons why we pay more than we intend to for Starbucks coffee. Some of the highlights were: easy availability with ubiquitous outlets with long hours, a product that is a personal treat or indulgence (with a little caffeine hook), novelty items coming out all the time but reliable quality underneath, a look and language to make people feel like they are in a special club... does that sound familiar?
Ebooks are as available as the internet, a special treat (with a little erotica hook), there are new releases weekly at every publisher with some new kink or paranormal twist but a predicable genre form, there is a surrounding jargon and forums, blogs and loops to mix with other readers and writers.
Erotic romance ebooks are 'just books' like Starbucks is 'just coffee'. Rationally no better and arguably often objectively worse (and certainly more expensive page for page) than paperbacks. But as much as readers might grumble, a sexy ebook is exactly the kind of product they will be willing to pay a little more for--so long as we make it worth their while by delivering a reliable fix of a little of what they fancy that is never more than a few clicks away.