How much should an ebook cost

Ebooks price are too high. At least that's how I viewed it before I was convinced otherwise. $29.99, $49.99, or $59.99. What are you paying for when you buy an ebook. The cost of duplicating an ebook is nil. Just copy and paste. Maybe a millionth of a cent if you count the electricity usage. But I think the price is completely justified.

The cost of production of physical books is much higher. At the end there is a product you can touch and store in a shelf. It occupies space. If it runs out in a library, a truck has to get a stock from the publisher and physically transport it consuming gas, causing traffic in the streets, using the drivers time. There is a lot involved for this book to arrive in your hands.

But for you as a consumer, what are you paying for exactly? What if you order a copy of the latest "A song of Ice and Fire" by George R. R. Martin and I send you a 1040 pages ram of paper with a hard cover. Equal in weight and size. Maybe I will be nice and hand-write "Games of Thrones" on the cover. The price is $35. How would you feel about that? Would you be ok with it?

I am sending you a physical object. It cost money to produce. I'm sure you will be very mad.

I heard something interesting in a podcast by Andrew Price:

Speaker holding a single blank sheet of paper in front of audience.
Speaker — How much are you willing to pay for this piece of paper?
Guy in audience — Maybe five cents.
Speaker — What if this little sheet of paper contained Coca-Cola secret formula?
Audience — Millions!

When you are buying a book or ebook, you are paying for its content. The author spent months or years writing a story, building the characters story, working very hard to produce the final product that is presented as a book. That's what you are paying for. If you saw the author in his creative process, you would probably be willing to pay even more for the final result.

If you read a book and like the author, if the she writes another book, chances are you will buy it just because you liked her previous work. And depending of how much she influenced you, you might even be willing to pay way more than the "regular" price for the book; because you know the author is credible.

Now what if you read half the book, loved it, then you found out that she didn't write the damn book. That's a feeling I had while reading All marketer are liars by Seth Godin. (I highly recommend the book. You will never look at marketing the same.)

I didn’t write this book.

What I mean is that Seth Godin didn’t write this book. It was written by a freelancer for hire named Mo Samuels. Godin hired me to write it based on a skimpy three-page outline.
Does that bum you out? Does it change the way you feel about the ideas in this book? Does the fact that Seth paid me $10,000 and kept the rest of the advance money make the book less valuable?
Why should it matter who wrote a book? The words don’t change, after all. Yet I’m betting that you care a lot that someone named Mo wrote this book instead of the guy on the dust jacket. In fact, you’re probably pretty angry.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, you realize that there is no Mo Samuels and in fact, I was pulling your leg. I (Seth Godin) wrote every word of this book.

I watched a lot of talks by Seth Godin, read his blog, and believe he is a very credible and interesting guy. I loved the book up to the point I read that part. I didn't want to be angry but I was. I agreed with all the pages before this one and then, he throws this at my face. The ideas did not change, but it felt wrong all of the sudden. I should have known, since he has a good sense of humor. But I fell for it.

So you see, we buy books and ebooks because of their content and the reputation of the author. Not because of how much money was invested in its production. For the first Paranormal Activity movie, the budget was $15,000. Does it mean that they should have sold the sits for cheaper?

There is no real monetary value to a book. The author (or publisher) determines the price people are willing to pay. And the more reputable the author is, the more people are willing to pay for his work.

Nikolai Gogol short stories paperback sells for $5.00 on amazon, $9.12 on kindle. But if we had to put a real value to it, it is simply priceless.


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