Perception

Books are expensive.

Let’s begin with that statement. It’s a fact. A brand new, hardcover novel (and some paperbacks) can run you anywhere from $15-$30 or more. I have a handful of authors whose books I have on my living room shelves and whose new hardcovers I will always buy. I think of them as collectors’ items. I also have a few lesser favorites whose hardcovers I will occasionally buy if the book sounds fabulous or gets great reviews, and I happen to have a little extra spending money that week.

I also have a Nook.

I got it for my birthday two years ago, and I was hesitant. I’m one of those people who loves the feel of an actual book in my hands. I love the smell of the ink and the smoothness of the paper between my fingers as I turn the pages and the heft of an actual hardcover. All that being said, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with my Nook. The best part of it is shopping along online, finding a book I’m interested in, pressing a button, and reading in a matter of seconds. So very cool. And don’t get me started on the awesomeness that is playing games on it or—even better—watching Netflix.

I love my Nook.

That being said, something funny happened yesterday that I found amusing, and I was wondering if any of you have come across the same thing.

I am a fan of suspense writer Harlan Coben. I don’t have all his books, but he’s one of those authors whose hardcovers I will consider buying on one of those days when I’ve got some extra money. I was shopping yesterday and saw his newest book on the shelf. I pulled it down, read the blurb, though it sounded really good. The hardcover was priced at $27.50. I’d get a discount, but it would still run me in the low $20s. I put it back.

The Nook version of Coben’s newest is $12.99. I haven’t purchased it because that seems like a lot to me.

Huh? Wait. $27.50 was too much, but so is $12.99?

Why is that?

The ebook would end up $10 cheaper than the hardcover (after discounts), but still I hesitate. Is it because with the hardcover, I have something tangible I can hold in my hand? Shake it and say, “See? I bought this.” And on the Nook, it’s not much more than vapor because words on a screen have no weight? Is something worth less if I can’t hold onto it? If I hold my Nook, which has dozens of books on it, is it the same value as if I tried to hold a pile of actual books in my arms? It doesn’t feel like it.

It’s all about perception, isn’t it?

It amuses me. You?

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Carleen

I find the following question/sentence [snipped] intriguing: “…because words on a screen have no weight?”

Remove “on a screen”…and reconsider the question/sentence.

Yes…intriguing.

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Georgia Beers

Of course, I’m talking about *literal* weight, right Carleen? Words on a screen don’t have the weight of words on a page. Three actual books in my hand weigh much, much more than three books on my Nook. That’s what I meant. 😉

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Bill

I agree, Georgia, it’s about the perception, the perceived value in being able to physically hold a book, to an extent but it’s also about the whole shift in the publishing world. I can understand paying reasonably more for a physical copy of a book (publishing costs) but even the Kindle prices for the more popular authors are out of sight. I’ve wanted to read “Odd Apocalypse” by Koontz since it came out but I can’t justify the $14.99 Kindle price. There are just too many good indie authors out there who have great stories that aren’t tied to the big houses and their big prices. I don’t want to overpay to support the overhead of a big house or its profit margin. I’d rather my money support the authors. But regardless of the author, I very rarely will pay over $9.99 for an ebook.

The epub revolution has given many gifted authors who were ignored by the big houses a voice and that voice is changing the industry. I guess, as an indie author, I should want higher prices but I also want people to be able to afford to read my books. The publishing world is changing and it doesn’t bode well for the high-priced books the big houses hawk.

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Taylor

I hear you. It is all about perception…except it isn’t. You’re not comparing the value of words. You’re comparing the value of what it took to get that “work” into your hands. Lots of work, space, weight for shipping, wages of employees, storage space, etc. for the hardback book. Not so much for the e-book. It’s less than a meg of storage on average on a server farm. It’s automated web-based sending of a file to your Nook. Did this help at all? BTW, I love your stuff.

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Mary Anne

There was a time when spending $25 for a hardback by an author I loved seemed like a bargain. Now I refuse to pay more than $10. for an ebook and have not bough a hardback in four years. Physically ebooks are just easier. A seven hundred page book weighs the same as a two hundred page book on a Nook or Kindle. Add that you can adjust the font size and I’m a happy camper.
The reason I set a $10 limit has nothing to do with the quality of the work or the talent of the author. It only has to do with the cost of an e-file as opposed to the physical production of the item. I know the cost is negligible compared to a paper book. That is not perception, it’s fact.

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CC

Yeah, this is an interesting one. Perceived value — I find it very hard justifying paying on par for a physical book vs e-book.

I got my Kindle close to two years ago now and at first I thought I’d hate letting go of the joy of turning a physical page but the convenience (one-bedroom apartment, avid reader and re-reader and virtually no storage space left) and access to such a huge range of books coupled with instant gratification has me hooked. (Definition of laziness when snuggled in bed — purchasing a new eBook rather than leaving warmth of said bed and moving TWO METRES to the bookcase!)

I don’t know how it works in North America but some publishers charge more in Australia for new release eBooks than they do for the physical one. On top of that, with pricing for different regions, trying to figure out how much my limit for a book is, is getting tricky. (Case in point, Harlan Coben’s newest is $20.50 for Aussies on the Kindle store, I’m curious if that’s what US readers are being charged. The trade paperback would set me back 19.99 from the big chains, so I could get it cheaper than the “virtual” copy. I have all of his books (someone just returned his entire Myron series today which is why this post made me smile) but at $20.50 for something I can’t hold, that once the file has been created costs significantly less to reproduce than an actual book, well, I’ll probably wait)

Embarrassing aside — the Kindle store is how I discovered your work Georgia but I’m ashamed to say I’ve never taken the time to write to say how much I enjoy them all. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read Too Close To Touch … Or Mine. Or Starting From Scratch. Or … well, I’m sure you get the idea. So, thank you for your weighty words :))

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Dillon Watson

It is all about perception. I am the opposite of you. I will buy the ebook, then if it is good, I will wait for the hardback to show up on the bargain table. I prefer to reread using the physical book. And I confess there are many things I will forgo to buy books.

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