After some recent comments over at Scalzi’s place about this, I figured I would throw my two copper bits into the discussion, for those that may someday be interested in what I think about price points for ebooks (circa January 2012)…
No, I don’t think that consumers should voice their objections about how much the latest [insert preferred author]’s book costs as an ebook. At least, in response to an environment intended to say, “Hey, you may want to check this book out, and here’s the author themselves to tell you why,” which is essentially what Scalzi’s Big Idea threads are. Personally, as a writer, I like the concept of having writers talk about how a book started, even if that central idea became something completely different on the way to the final product. As a consumer, if I like what I see (either by way of the cover art, or the discussion of the concept), then I poke over to my preferred book dealer’s website and check it out.
But I don’t necessarily buy, right then. If it’s a new book, it’s usually only a few more gold nuggets to get a hardcover, and I am at the stage where I am more likely to get the hardcover only if it’s: a) written by [preferred author], b) released in proximity to an event where said author may be attending (for a possible signature, of course). I have enough dead-tree editions of things on my shelves still waiting to read that dropping $12 for a new ebook (that I may or may not like) isn’t very practical. Which is where the websites come in.
They have this handy feature called “samples” that, in this kind of situation, allows me to drop this new shiny book that piqued my interest in the first place, onto a stack where I can then refer back to for either sampling to see if I like the work, purchasing later when prices come down (on special sale, perhaps, or when natural life cycles lead to the paperback pricing), or to be able to consider/look for during a trip to the library. Again, with as much as is already on the stack to be read, the last option there may be more for “first works” (first thing I’m reading from an author), or when a book is still sitting at $10 for the ebook version.
Publishing is a business, and books are the stock in trade. Think of it like a restaurant: you order from the menu based on what you are: a) interested in eating, and b) willing to pay. And you sample from different restaurants because you like different flavors.
If you don’t like how an ebook is priced on one site, try a few others (or through the publishing house directly, if they’re a smaller one), and if you only want to eat from the dollar menu (i.e. – only pay up to $3 or so for an ebook)… good luck with that. I personally don’t mind paying a little more for ebooks by authors that I have read before, or that have been recommended to me – or even ones that the samples have read well – with the understanding that there are other benefits that (should be/are) inherently bundled in to a “vested” (aka – traditionally published) ebooks. In line with Charles Stross suggests here (through his prediction about the paperback market), as long as the paperback and ebook versions are close, unless it’s an impulse buy or a ebook form isn’t available yet (or the book is out of print and can only be found in a used book shop), I’m more likely to go electronic for a writer’s backlist, if I decide to pick it up.
But to grumble over pricing, or boycott a writer because they were able to land a contract with a traditional publisher is just being petty. If the core story that was written sounds good, save your coins for a while for the pricing to come down (usually a year after the hardcover), or get thee to a library. Don’t troll someone’s website over it.