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.