Thu 12 Apr 2012
I just read a very interesting piece in PC Magazine written by John C. Dvorak titled: “What is an Ebook Worth?”
It give a “Cliff’s Notes” version of the current DOJ antitrust lawsuit and notes that the good news about the whole controversy is that it establishes that “the ebook is the future and everyone should buy a Kindle and/or an iPad. There’s no stopping this trend. It’s becoming a juggernaut.” (I’d disagree with Mr. Dvorak on 1 thing – that’s not good news- it’s GREAT news!) But he notes that it makes the price/value question inevitable.
Here’s part of the author’s analysis:
Let’s go back a few years when you could buy a true paperback (the small one) for 25 cents. Gasoline was also 25-cents a gallon. Inflation changed things and the same paperback should now sell for about the same price as a gallon of gasoline. In the interim, the larger format paperback called the trade paperback, which is the same size as the hardcover book only with a paper cover, sold for maybe $3.95 or so. Now, some are $25 or more. In fact, there is very little rhyme or reason to book pricing today with or without an inflation calculator.
It’s an interesting point. A gallon of gas and a book used to cost about the same. Gas gives you traveling time and a book or an ebook gives your imagination traveling time. Today, a gallon of gas would cost about $3.99. You know what? That’s still a pretty fair price for an ebook. So the gas/ebook price point analogy may be a page from the past that’s still true today. So many of the old truths we learned from our parents and grandparents stand the test of time, and to me – it looks like Dvorak’s apt analogy does the same.
Mr. Dvorak notes that down-pricing is common with high tech. That holds true as well. I recall when VHS player/recorders first came out. They were items only rich folks could afford – at first. But very soon, the technology went mainstream and the price went down until it leveled out at an affordable level for nearly everyone.
Ebooks are going mainstream so it’s time for the price to go down and level out at an affordable level. The gallon of gas equation makes sense to me as a price point for most books, except perhaps, very new releases. If you wanted to be the first on the block to own a VHS player, you paid for the privilege. I can see $9.99 as being a reasonable price for a new release that would hold for a few months and then fall to perhaps $5.99 or $6.99 for a year or so before leveling out at right around the price for a gallon of gas – presently about $3.99.
Kudos to Mr. Dvorak for employing something so rare that it’s nearly a lost art – common sense.