The Value of Ebooks

There’s something to be said for the instant gratification of buying a book without leaving your house, and being able to start reading it within seconds. Personally, I prefer holding a book in my hand, the satisfaction of physically turning all those wonderful pages…but I’m an impatient person willing to forego that experience if I can have it NOW.

Ebooks are terrifically convenient. Ereaders have bookmarks that never let me forget my place, search options to reference clever phrasings or dialogue. Nowadays you don’t even have to buy an expensive electronic device to enjoy them; I don’t. My laptop has apps for reading Mobi files, ePubs, and PDFs – ditto with my phone. I can read whatever I want, whenever I want.

When I first began consuming electronic books, I was over the moon for the convenience of the experience. I read everywhere, downloading books at a rate even I can’t believe, looking back. With free ebooks advertised all over the internet, cost was hardly a factor for me – until I started looking up bestselling authors and saw that the price difference between the ebook and the hardcover was (in some cases) less than a dollar.

An ebook, wonderful as it is, is not worth the cost of a hardcover. I would go so far as to say it isn’t worth the cost of a paperback, especially given the current outrageous prices of paperbacks. Ebooks are not easily shared. They can’t be resold at (for example) a garage sale. They don’t add to the lovely array of spines gracing my bookshelf. So why in hell would I pay fifteen bucks for one?

Well, I won’t. Even ten dollars is too much and, though I’ve paid that before, I won’t again. I might be an impatient person, but we all have limits and budgets and standards. To me, no ebook should be more than eight dollars. Self or traditionally published, it’s not a physical book. It’s a file, locked onto whatever device you purchase it on (though there are ways around that).

My advice for indie authors is to keep your prices reasonable. Stephen King and John Grisham have an advantage in that their books are in so many libraries – both digital and brick and mortar – that a twenty dollar price tag does not mean their books will go unread. Yours probably will. When pricing your work, think carefully about how much you’ve invested in it yourself. If you haven’t spent ten dollars on publishing, why should I spend even half that to read it?

Fifty thousand words put together does not make a book. Write a first draft and join a critique group. Rewrite the book and hire an editor. Get approval from a dozen beta readers, then pay for a final proof. Once the interior is up to par, find a cover designer. If you’re low on funds, commission an art student looking to make a name for themselves.

Only after you’re looking at a professional, completed book should you consider the cost…because only then is it worth anything.

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