Ebooks from a reader’s standpoint

As a writer, I love the concept of ebooks. Those of us shuttered out of the business because of high overheads and the Bestseller Factor know the window of opportunity that could be flung wide by the success of ebooks. Lower publisher costs = bigger stable of authors. But, today I’m thinking like a reader. After all, I am one.

A while ago J.A. Konrath (a talented author and a champion of all writers) did an interview on blogger’s A view from Garnet’s World. In it, he states–along with a list of other criteria–ebooks will only succeed if they are ninety-nine cents or less each. Now, we can quibble over the exact number (less than a buck seems a tad low), but I think the idea is sound. Here’s why:

I have a wish list on Amazon a mile long. For every book I buy, ten others go onto this list, never to be bought. I often peruse it, I sulk over it, I add a few of its ranks to my cart–and just as quickly put them back. The fact is, I don’t have the free cash to put up for every single author I think I might like to add to my burgeoning bookshelves, no matter how much I’d love to support each and every one of their careers. When I do have spare cash, I tend to buy within my genre, soothing my guilt with platitudes of research and education about my specialty. And it’s a shame. There are so many authors out there I’ve come across and dismissed, not because of any fault of theirs–on the contrary, they usually wow me with their ranges of style and concept–but because I know the cash cow can’t put out much more than she already has, and most times paying the Man is more important than purchasing a novel. For instance, this morning I read a stellar excerpt from award-winning YA author, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls. It was only two pages, but I instantly fell in love with her voice. I went to Amazon, found the novel, and inserted it into the black hole that is my wish list.

Were ebooks more popular, were publishing less expensive, were Mr. Konrath’s dreams of a buck novel a reality, I’d have snapped up Wintergirls (and all her other titles), along with everyone else on that list. I’d branch out, find new books, tons of them, tons of tons of them. Instead, I have to comb through my list of the dead, searching for the one name that cannot be ignored, casting aside all others like faceless soldiers from a long forgotten war. With paperbacks averaging seven bucks a pop and hardbacks, well, they’re just crazy, my hands are tied. Like Mr. Konrath also said, it makes no sense that a single hardback book starts out at close to thirty bucks, while a whole season of our favorite TV shows are under twenty. Reading is just too expensive a hobby. And that is the biggest shame for writers and readers alike.

About Avery

I am a roller derbying, dark fantasy author. This blog chronicles my adventures in life, writing and skating. View all posts by Avery

18 responses to “Ebooks from a reader’s standpoint

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  • Avery DeBow

    Everyone (except you Zisky, I’ll deal with your ass in a second) — Sorry for such a late reply. More renovation fun-ness.Laughingwolf — There are so many books that want me as their owner. I want to adopt them all!Miladysa — You just became my new best friend. Thanks!And YOU, Zisky — May your fat, spammy, little fingers be chopped off, deep fried and served on week-old, borderline moldy bread. Fuck off.

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  • Miladysa

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  • Avery DeBow

    To all about pricing — like I said, the price still needs figuring out. Ninety-nine does seem pretty darn low to me, too. There has to be some sort of formula to figure out optimal price for both reader and author/publisher. Too bad math makes my head hurt.Charles — Don’t get me started on how TV shows are parceled out these days!Spyscribbler — The sample thing is definitely key. I recently purchased a book from an author previously unknown to me based on the HUGE excerpt I was allowed to download for free. Those ninety pages were the difference between me going, “Hmm, interesting, but maybe later,” and, “Holy crap, I need to know what happens next.”Steve — You hit on a great point. The Powers That Be in the entertainment industry are struggling with the current technology, trying desperately to shove square pegs into round holes. In my head they’re a group of dinosaurs staring up at the pretty red fireball in the sky, and they’re all going, “You think this is going to change things?”Fritopi — Thanks for stopping by. I too love the concept of ebooks. I still have a thing for paper and ink, and I think print media will always have a place, but it’s definitely a point of reassurance when you can whip out a mobile reader (or an iPhone) when you’re at the doctor’s office and they announce to the stunned waiting room that they’re running about an hour behind.

  • fritopi

    eeeh, i feel like 99 cents is just a tad too low. $5 would probably be more fruitful for the author. but i love the idea of ebooks. 🙂

  • Steve Malley

    I’d heard publishers are having a hard time wrapping their heads around the idea that they pay *nothing* to distribute e-books. That they don’t see why we won’t pay hardback/paperback prices for electrons.Hopefully, with Kindle et al, they’re getting the hang of the idea…

  • spyscribbler

    I’m actually comfortable with the Kindle prices: $4 – $9.99. And with the “sample” feature, one click and I have the first twenty or so pages on my Kindle, just waiting for me to click the “Buy the rest” button for just $5 or so when I’m ready to read it.I’m not sure authors would be making enough money at .99. Maybe if they cut out the agents and the publishers. 🙂

  • Charles Gramlich

    I never thought of the cost of a hardback relative to a season of shows. Interesting. Of course, the season these days might be only six episodes and finished in a shorter time than the novel. I’d too like to see books cheaper than they are. Most of the ones I’ve bought for the kindle are nearly 5 bucks, which seems high.

  • Avery DeBow

    Lana — There will always be a need and a place for libraries, although the content of the buildings may have to change somewhat. What I was trying to get across wasn’t a slam of libraries, but my currently impossible desire to support numerous authors monetarily, while not going broke in the process. In all honesty I don’t like borrowing my books. I want them all, shelves and shelves of them. : )Laughingwolf — And it’s sad when you regret a book purchase. Cheap enough, and you can say, “Oh well, I tried.” But, plunking down twenty-odd dollars and hating it, well, that just hurts the soul–especially taking into account all the other books passed up in the process.

  • laughingwolf

    hear, hear av… there are many thousands of books i’d like to read, in all genres; fic, non-fic, and poetry, but lacking the filthy lucre needed to buy them all, like you i’m forced to weed out what i deem the best of the best, though after reading some, i’m sorely disappointed with my choices…the thing with library books, as you know lana, i’m not out any money, library cards are free… rather time, in some cases

  • Lana Gramlich

    *Whew!* You had me scared there for a moment, but it seems that my little library job is still safe (for now, anyway!)

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