Are books worth more than two pints of Guinness? I wouldn't usually recommend asking this question of anyone of Irish extraction, but Adrian White has written an interesting piece about why he values his latest book at $9.99.
I am, as most of you know, a total Kindle convert who still loves paper books. I embrace the ebook revolution, but I am still doing my bit to make sure print doesn't die (I picked up three paperbacks at the weekend, one gift, two for myself. Long live print and digital!). Part of the reason I love the Kindle is that I can now buy more books and support more authors, because the books are cheaper - my money goes farther.
Adrian White priced his first book at $4.99, because he was told the story was strong and unputdownable, and his second at $2.99 because it deals with self-harm and was likely to appeal to a narrower market. Now, I would have suggested pricing the unputdownable book at $2.99 (get them in the door) and the less widely-appealing book at $4.99 to maximise the revenue generated from people who bought it expecting more of the same. But evidently Mr. White is both nicer and smarter than me, and thus has some hope of retaining his readers for Book 3, which is priced at $9.99.
A few commenters on his original post have remarked that value is determined by the customer, and this is true. The Irish understand this better than most - a few years ago, our housing market was such that horrible little houses in poorly-serviced areas were worth hundreds of thousands of euro more than they were ten years earlier, because people were willing to pay that. They aren't any more, so prices have dropped.
I haven't decided that the value of an ebook for me is less than a chai latte (I don't drink Guinness so we'll just have to live with my cost of living indicators for a moment). I will happily pay over $9.99 for a book by an author I really like. But for me (and that is the key phrase), it's too much to spend on an ebook for an author that isn't one of my Top 20. I'd rather take my $9.99, add another few quid to it, and use it to support a bricks-and-mortar bookshop.
From his article, Adrian White's books sound as though they are each quite different from each other. I have some sympathy with this, as I genre-hop like a bunny on acid in a great big genre field. But it makes me even less likely to spend $9.99 on an ebook, no matter how good the author says it is, because if I have read and liked his previous two books, it doesn't follow that I'll like the third. This is true of every author, of course, but more so for an author whose books differ drastically from each other.
I admire Adrian White's decision. He knows it may cost him sales and yet he is refusing to undervalue his work, and I respect anyone who shows such courage in their convictions. But the market is currently geared towards the idea that ebooks are cheap and cheerful, and print books are endangered luxury items we must fight to retain. I don't know if there is space in such a market for an ebook at almost a print book price - right now, I think the market wants either value for money or a comfy bookshop with knowledgeable staff, a thriving arts-n-culture program and an in-store Starbucks (we're back to chai lattes again - lord, does every road in my life lead to chai lattes??).
We want the best of both worlds. At the moment, we can have it. This may not last, and if it doesn't. . . then maybe consumers will get a little more comfortable with paying $9.99 for an ebook.
What's the most you guys will pay for a book? Print, digital, paperback, hardback, audio (the forgotten stepchild of the publishing industry), debut author, favourite author, bestselling author, small press, indie, self-published. . . whatever! What's your magic price point?