Let’s be clear, here. When I say “real,” I actually mean “physical copies that I own and may do as I please with,” rather than some kind of judgement based on quality or content. In other words, things that aren’t eBooks.
I’ve fought against the eBook revolution for some time. I’ve given all the standard reasons that make me sound like a pretentious hipster twit. “I love the smell,” “I love the tactile sensation of turning pages,” “I prefer to be able to read without having electricity,” etc, etc, ad nauseum. Now, despite my judgement of calling those the bastion of hipster twits, I actually still agree with all of them. Old books do have a great smell, and the physical sensation is amazing. It’s also nice to have something handy that doesn’t involve a boot up, is not tied to battery life or a wall socket and is less suceptible to explosion, electrocution or death should inclement weather arrive.
That being said, there’s plenty of things I have bought electronically. Generally because the item is only available as an eBook, or the discount was too good to pass up, or it’s something I know I’m going to be using extensively for reasearch or quotation (cut and paste saves wear and tear on my already damaged hands, after all.) Extending past the book medium, I feel much the same for movies, music and video games, preferring to own a physical object that I can call “mine,” but occasionally lured because the price is too good or singular availability or some other perk.
But the single biggest reason – at least these days – is the cost. As noted, one of the lures is a good price point when compared to the physical version.
If the price difference is minimal, I’ll take the physical item every time. The concept of actual ownership, the pretentious hipster perks, and the feeling that I have something I can pick up, hold, feel the weight of is worth a small difference in price. If one looks over some of the Kindle offerings, especially those by well-known authors but fairly frequently found amongst indies as well, you’ll notice that a lot of times there isn’t a significant price difference.
I am not one to say the author – or whatever flavor of artist – is not entitled to the sweat of his brow. But I find it difficult to believe that the production cost should net you only a $3-$5 difference when you buy a Kindle version instead of a hardcover of a 1,100 page Stephen King doorstopper novel. Give me $10-15 off, I’m somehow sure sai King is still pocketing an equal – if not greater – royalty, and I’m going to be much more enticed to grab the downloadable, putting aside my attraction to smell and my desire to have a physical object to call my own. If you move out of the fiction arena and into things like gaming strategy guides or the manuals for RPGs like Warhammer Codices or D&D Class Manuals, it gets even more insane.
Maybe I’m crazy. I’ve seen quite a few arguments for charging more for digital books, playing on the psychology that the average consumer believes in the maxim of getting what they pay for, thus thinking that the less expensive a thing is, the less worthwhile it is. Maybe they’re right.
Overall, though, I really think whoever is in charge of the pricing on these sorts of things – be it books, video games, movies or music – needs to look at their choices and consider adjusting them downward. Given that almost everyone has got a smart phone, tablet or PC/Mac capable of reading eBooks and plenty have a Kindle or Nook or something similar, it’s not market potential that’s keeping eBooks from becoming dominant. It’s something else, and I suspect that something else is the cost/value ratio. If you’re not going to hand me something that I can then hand to others, display proudly on a shelf, sell if I no longer need it, or use as an emergency umbrella, something that doesn’t smell nice or give me a nice sensation against my fingers, you’re going to have to give me an incentive to switch. Ease of use or speed of delivery are nice, but that’s not enough to justify the small price differences, especially in the era of drone deliveries and midnight launches.
Maybe I’m just a relic of a lost era. Maybe I am a pretentious hipster twit. Maybe I’m just an entitled little asshat. But I really think the pricing on eBooks needs a good, hard looking-at, and soon.
What do you folks think? Are eBooks too pricey for their own good? Is the price and additional perks worth sacrificing actually owning something, or does the price gap need to widen before you jump in? Let us know down below!