Are You Willing to Pay as Much for a Book as You Are for a Burger?

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I've been thinking a lot lately about the price of Ebooks. Since I'm traditionally published, I don't have the luxury of setting the prices of my Ebooks. That means, sometimes I like the prices of my Ebooks and there are times when I don't.

Obviously, most readers are aware by now that traditionally published Ebooks sell at a higher price than self-published books. There are a couple of reasons for the disparity.

1. Self-published authors are "in charge" of setting their own prices. In a free enterprise market, everyone knows that you're better able to drive business your way if you can under-price your competitor. That's why we all go to Walmart to buy milk for $1.98 rather than paying $2.50 at Meijer. Indie books are able to draw shoppers through the lower prices they offer, prices that traditional publishers can't offer on a regular basis. That leads to my next point . . .

2. Traditionally published books have more people involved in the publication process, thus need to generate more revenue in order to pay everyone who had a hand in the book: two or more editors, office staff, the cover design team, the cover model, photographer, the marketing staff, publicist, sales representatives, and more. And let's not forget, the author also has to be paid! No, Ebooks may not require the same "print" costs that a hard copy or paperback may incur, but as you can see, the costs of traditional publication go beyond the price tag of paper and ink.

Let's face it, low indie prices have changed the Ebook market, and so traditionally published authors who are selling their Ebooks at $9.99 are often losing out to indie authors who are selling theirs for $2.99-$4.99.

And then there is a continuous parade of Ebooks that are offered for free. If a voracious reader never wanted to pay a dime for another book, they could feast on a steady diet of books simply by downloading all of the free books.

Yes, sometimes I can't help feeling that my traditionally published Ebooks are priced too high to be competitive in the current market. I whine and moan about it from time to time. And while some traditionally published authors have gone indie so that they can set their own lower prices and retain more of the profit for themselves, for now I'm still reaping many benefits of traditional publication including higher visibility, national recognition, distribution in bookstores all across the country and world, and exposure to a pool of readers who wouldn't know about me if not for traditional publishers ability to explore wider channels.

Part of me also wonders if having such low priced books is really a good thing anyway. Over time, I've noticed a subtle shift in the mind-set of many readers. Since so many of us have grown accustomed to cheaply priced or free Ebooks, we balk if we have to pay full price on any Ebook. In fact, I've had readers comment irritably about the higher price on some of my Ebooks. After reading my free novella, Out of the Storm, which kicks off my historical romance lighthouse series, some readers have been upset that they have to pay $9.99 for the full length Ebooks.

When I get those kinds of negative comments, I want to say, "If you went to Applebees for dinner, I bet you'd pay at least $9.99 for a burger which you'd consume in an hour and have nothing to show for it later."

Or, "When you go to see the new release Jurassic World, you won't hesitate to pay $8.00 per ticket and then at least another $5.00 for popcorn and pop. The movie will last two hours, and what will you have to show for it? And what if you don't like it?"

If you pay $9.99 for an Ebook, what will you have to show for that? Hours of reading pleasure. And a book that you can loan or read over and over. Yes, there may be some books that won't ring your bell. But if you take that chance with movies, why not with books?

In reality, $9.99 for a book whether print or Ebook is a great deal. We can't purchase many other forms of entertainment that cheaply, whether it's going to a restaurant, movie, concert, theater production, sporting event, or even a museum. No other entertainment nowadays is as inexpensive or as fulfilling as the journey a reader can take in a book.

Do I wish the price of my Ebooks were lower? Sometimes. Which is why occasionally I give my publishers permission to offer my books on sale (like The Vow and An Uncertain Choice are for a limited time). But at the same time, I want readers to appreciate the bargain value that they're already getting in a book at full price and be just as willing to pay for a book as they are a burger.

How about YOU? Are YOU willing to pay as much for a book as you are for a burger? 

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