Why $9.99 Isn't the Mark of the Beast for Books

Is the lower price of e-books really comparable to a “flood of cheap houses onto a real estate market,” as a quote in the New York Times article on eBook pricing suggests?

The article, neutrally titled “Steal This Bookfor $9.99,” lays out several scenarios for what current e-book prices will do for the industry:

  1. Create a doomsday scenario where low-priced e-books cannibalize print market and eventually drive all publishers out of business
  2. Stabilize/increase to more reasonable levels as Amazon competitors become stronger
  3. Convert non-readers to book buyers and open up a whole new market for books without significantly hurting existing trade

I, and many fellow bloggers, humbly suggest that there is a glaring omission from these future possiblities and would like to explore option four: Publishers create e-books that are worth as much as their print counterparts and readers respond to enhanced quality by agreeing to pay more.

What does a quality e-book look like?

  • Shareable: as Sarah of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books suggested at Digital Book 2009, DRM neuters the social network attached to book culture. If I can’t share my books with my partner and my family, I’m not going to pay as much as if I can.
  • Web Designed: a good-looking book will catch my attention offline and my aesthetic antennae quiver when a text file is given HTML treatment and then called an eBook. If your designer understands the web (and frankly, there is no excuse not to), I’ll value your product like you do.
  • Web Enhanced: eBooks can give a reader a richer, broader experience than print so let’s see some of it. More features in these books make it clear why they deserve higher price tags.

Value the eBook and so will the reader. If you treat digital like an annoying poor relation, so will your community.