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The Value of a Book: Time v. Money

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[poll id="218"]

I’m preparing a post about the major publisher buying habits as it relates to paranormal romance, UF, and YA books in those sub genres. My friend, who has been tabulating the data, wondered whether the increase in YA books was affecting the adult market. I asked this question of various publishers and Pam Jaffee, the publicist for HarperCollins asked it of Jeanienne Frost and Melissa Marr during a blogtalk radio episode.

Frost thought the YA market fostered the adult market. Marr didn’t understand the concept arguing that we aren’t limited to a particular number of books per year.

I don’t understand the concept of taking readers away from any particular genre. I don’t read just paranormal, urban fantasy, classic literature, or just YA. I read all through the bookstore. I don’t think that particular stance makes sense to me.If we had a limited number of books we were allotted per year, maybe…

JA Konrath argues that the reason that he is making more money off his self published books than his mainstream novels published by Hyperion is because of price.

My first Jack Daniels novel, Whiskey Sour, has sold 2500 ebooks since 2004, and earned me around $2500. Compare that to the ebooks I’ve self-published. My top five titles are now averaging 800 sales per month, and those numbers are going up. On my top selling ebook, I’ve earned more money in 45 days than Whiskey Sour has earned in 5 years.

Why? Price. My publisher (and all publishers) are pricing ebooks too high.

He also argues that authors aren’t in competition with one another (akin to what Marr is arguing). But don’t readers have a finite amount of time and money for any entertainment?

Take Marr’s assertion that there is no limit to the books we consume. This is true only if we have unlimited resources. But with limited time and money, a YA book purchased for $17.99 can decrease the time spent reading adult books and money spent on buying adult books. Marr and Konrath’s argument that authors are not in competition with one another is true if the price is low enough. But the higher the price and the more that authors do compete for a reader’s attention.

The lower the price, the more books that can fit into the finite source of entertainment money. The lower the price and perhaps, the money comes from outside the entertainment money and from the “coffee” money or some other budget line item. However, I have heard that lower priced books like the Kensington debut books priced at $3.99 or so actually sold poorly because the lower price indicated a lower quality.

Do you believe you have finite resources? Is time or money the motivating factor in preventing a book purchase? Does the issue of time or money ever impact your buying decisions? Would you turn away from one book and buy another if the other is at a cheaper press? Or shorter?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

69 Comments

  1. Tae
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 04:08:01

    I’m willing to spend $3.99 for a new author, but not $17.99 even if that book happens to be a best seller and every person I know is raving about it. I’ll check it out from the library before I spend that much on a book.

    For books.. I don’t think price equals quality as I do when it comes to clothes or shoes.

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  2. Nadia Lee
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 04:17:31

    Do you believe you have finite resources?

    Yes. Who has infinite resources anyway?

    Is time or money the motivating factor in preventing a book purchase?

    Money. I don’t have a printing press that pumps out unlimited $$$.

    Does the issue of time or money ever impact your buying decisions?

    Yes, but only money. I don’t usually worry about time b/c I can almost always make time to read.

    Would you turn away from one book and buy another if the other is at a cheaper press? Or shorter?

    Length doesn’t stop me from buying unless it’s ridiculously expensive. For example, I REFUSE to pay $4 or more for a 10k novella. A novella shouldn’t cost more than $3 at the most.

    I buy by author, then price. So cheap price alone cannot entice me to buy. Something else has to convince me, and they are usually (in no particular order):

    * good word of mouth
    * good cover
    * interesting blurb
    * (sub)genres I enjoy reading
    * my previous experience w/ the author (personal or otherwise)
    * excerpt

    However, I have heard that lower priced books like the Kensington debut books priced at $3.99 or so actually sold poorly because the lower price indicated a lower quality.

    I wonder if it’s b/c they’re print books. Most readers expect MMPBs to cost around $6.99 – 7.99/each. You can’t blame them for wondering why some single title MMPBs are only $3.99.

    A smarter strategy is to print $6.99 as the official price, but cross it out and put $3.99 underneath (or next to it or whatever) w/ all cap and/or bolded “LIMITED TIME ONLY” notice. That way people feel that they’re getting a bargain v. they’re buying some cheap stuff.

    Remember — it’s all about creating the right perception. :)

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  3. Sami
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 04:59:11

    I buy almost soley by author and blurb. I voted neither, although of course I, like everyone, have finite resources and as such money does play a part. I also have limited time. However, I’d never buy a book I was iffy on just because it was cheap and or short. I can always watch a movie, listen to my ipod or fool around on the net instead. Reading is my favorite entertainment option, but not my only one. I only buy books I really want to read.

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  4. Melissa
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 05:02:11

    I don’t like hardback books so I would only buy those for a very small amount of authors such as Karen Marie Moning that I just couldn’t wait to read. Then I started buying more when I could get them for $9.99 in ebook, but I will not buy an ebook over $10 because I don’t think it’s worth it.

    For paperbacks, price does not bother me. I will buy books from authors and series I like without thinking about it. However, I buy based on reviews and recommendations not necessarily price. I will try newer authors if I can get the book for cheap on Kindle.

    Time is only a factor is how quickly I get to a book, not whether I read it at all. I will buy the book then let it languish in the TBR pile until I get to it. Money really only comes into play when the book costs too much.

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  5. Persephone Green
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 05:03:45

    Money. I have to make time to read, anyway, because I have negative spare time as it is. Money will always be the limiting factor.

    I hope the UF, PR and YA dark fantasy genres continue to thrive, because I remember a good 15-year dearth of dark fantasy, and that was when I read fan fiction online. There were never enough female-POV oriented fantasy books with romance in them.

    I’m willing to buy so-so fiction only if it’s cheap and in my specific genre needs. The only limitation to how many books I buy is price, though. Frost and Marr, for instance, are not competing with each other for my attention; I read them both.

    Here’s the thing: I like pretty cover art, but I also like continuity in my collections. I want a nice line of paper books to look the same.

    I actually like Moning a lot as well. Because I bought the hardcover for her third book as the 1st printing, I did the same for her fourth book and will for her fifth. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t bother, since the cover art is only “okay” for me. So now I have hardcovers of two books and MMPB copies of three.

    Marr’s cover art is GORGEOUS. I have hardcover copies of all three books and ordered the fourth, plus trade paperback copies of the first two because I like to re-read them and don’t want to mess up the hardcovers.

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  6. sao
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 05:12:03

    I read a lot of books that I bought for a few bucks at a used book sale that I wouldn’t buy new. Why? because it’s a gamble. I don’t want to spend 10$ on what might be a lousy book.

    I read a hundred or so books a year and I buy new maybe 10 books a year. Drop the price to 2$ and I’ll buy a lot more of the 90 remaining.

    For popular fiction, I generally read a book once. I’ve run out of shelf space and I pass most of the popular fiction I buy on.

    Publishers are so focused on the hard cover market, but the real question is how much are people reading and how much are they paying for the books they read?

    I know no voracious reader who regular buys and pays full price for hard cover fiction. Voracious readers should be the publishers’ target customer, not the person who reads 1-2 books per year.

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  7. Anne Douglas
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 05:14:04

    I know adults who read YA…at a guess…at the 3to5 / 1 ratio of YA to Adult. Quite possibly even higher than that.

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  8. DS
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 06:02:29

    I should have read the post before taking the poll. I nearly clicked neither then I clicked time it would take me to read because I tend to not buy short books or short stories. I always look at the file size of digital books and remain shocked at the people who want me to pay several dollars for a short story.

    Do you believe you have finite resources? Yes, but I can pretty well buy what I want. Time, in the long view definitely, in the short view I usually make time if I have something I really, really want to read, or I use time that I might have wasted such as waiting time or travel time to either read on my iphone or Kindle or listen to an audiobook.

    Is time or money the motivating factor in preventing a book purchase? Neither, although, as I noted, I don’t do short fiction.

    Does the issue of time or money ever impact your buying decisions? Yes, see short fiction answer. Also won’t spend a lot on digital books because of limitations with resale, DRM and current irritation with publishers, etc. Let’s add space to that along with time and money. One of these days I am going to be found buried under a shelf of books that finally collapsed under its own weight.

    Would you turn away from one book and buy another if the other is at a cheaper press? All other things being equal, probably, or if the cheaper or the more expensive triggered one of my other annoyances. It could go either way.

    Or shorter? Not specifically to buy shorter.

    I never expect much from Kensington books– from experience, my perception could be wrong of course– so I might not have picked up one of their debut books, but it wouldn’t be because of the price. However I never saw any of the books due to a change in my book buying habits.

    I used to haunt bookstores, browsing shelves and looking at floor dumps. Now I do almost all my book buying on line and only go in new book stores a couple of times a year, usually on trips. Antiquarian/used book stores are different.

    ETA: I generally like fantasy of all types, and usually don’t even notice if YA or not.

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  9. Deb
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 06:32:10

    I budget like everyone else. Haven’t thought of length of book at all. I read reviews, check authors websites, read excerpts and generally haven’t been disappointed. While the price point is a deciding factor in purchase (am ereading), I’m more willing to spend full retail on MMPB, a little less than full on Trade, and $13.00 on hardcover. Interestingly, I’ve read in more than 1 online publication, that the cost difference between Trade and Hard Cover is negligible. So I am unwilling to bend on those. Didn’t buy many at all in print format, I’m less likely to buy now.

    Now that I turned to ereading, actually finding the books is turning into a real time sink. That is another deciding factor, and an important one. Have been looking for “The Summer of You” for my Sony. Since it’s release, I’ve checked every couple of days. iPad & B&N only. I give up on this one. I am anticipating the same with Nora Roberts upcoming release in her Bride series. Probably have to give up on Roberts too. It’s been a year since I turned digital and I am now running into the very issue which pushed me to an ereader, not being able to find and buy. I might give up on reading altogether and start watching TV again.

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  10. Nikki
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 06:33:15

    Do you believe you have finite resources?
    Yes, with the caveat that I make time for what I love, but still time is money, and money can be used for many other things

    Is time or money the motivating factor in preventing a book purchase?
    Neither, the biggest reason why I would not purchase is more about the author and the story. And now that I am downsizing, how much space it would take in my home.

    Does the issue of time or money ever impact your buying decisions?
    I read quickly, so time is less of a factor in purchasing. The cost of a book from an author I love rarely prevents a purchase. Of course, I also preorder months in advance with a discount, and always seem to have a discount coupon at the right time. :)

    I have learned to be wary of untried authors because that is a commitment in terms of time and money that I never get back. Part of why I fell in love with ebooks way back in the early days was that they were inexpensive and a bad author only cost me a little money. Now many ebooks are overpriced for the length.

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  11. Jennifer Estep
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 06:38:04

    For me, it’s all about the story. If it sounds interesting or appeals to me in some way, I’ll read it no matter what genre it is. If it doesn’t, I won’t.

    Most of the time, I do shop around a little bit for the best price/discount or I’ll wait until I have a coupon. But that’s about it. If I really want something right then and there, I’ll pay full price for it. Books are one of my few indulgences.

    Looking at some of the other comments, I think it’s interesting what people will pay for what books. I really think it boils down to how much someone wants to read something. As for all the pricing wars going on, people will decide what they want to pay for a certain format and eventually a consensus price point will become the norm. I think publishers will have to adjust accordingly.

    I know everyone wants to get a deal and save money, but $2 for a book makes me wince as an author. If a publisher were to sell a paperback for that price, I would get a whopping 16 cents in royalties on it per sale. Given all the work that goes into writing a book, I wouldn’t even be breaking even on a book like that — I’d be losing money (unless it sold a million copies and the chances of that happening are slim). Then it becomes a matter of why write books if I can’t make a living doing that? Love doesn’t pay the bills.

    What really puzzles me is that folks will go drop $20 on a movie for two hours of entertainment but won’t do the same for a book that will last longer, that they can re-read, and that they can sell/trade in. Why are books valued less than other forms of entertainment?

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  12. Rosario
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 06:43:12

    I’d say my limiting resource is time, rather than money, but it doesn’t really impact my buying decisions. It does, however, have a big effect on whether I accept a review request. If it doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy, the fact that it’s free won’t tempt me to spend some of my scarce reading time on that book.

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  13. Jane
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 06:45:59

    @Jennifer Estep: I have actually thought a lot about the movie comparison. I know a lot of authors use this as a comparable good, but it is just not. First off, who is spending $20 for a movie unless it is a DVD and then you can re-watch and sell/trade in.

    Also, for digital books, of course, you can’t sell/trade in or share.

    For a movie theatre showing, you are going for an experience. You can’t replicate the big screen environment in your home. Usually movies are a shared experience, meaning you are going with someone and part of the pleasure/enjoyment comes with the shared experience.

    Further, I think people intuitively think that movies are worth more because they are so much more costly to produce. $500 million for avatar. We are lucky to see it for only $8.00 a person. Additionally, there is the scarcity issue. There are only so many movies produced and released in theatres each year and for a limited time only.

    I can stream an unlimited amount of tv and movies for $8.95 per month. A mass market ebook costs me about the same today. Which is the better value for my dollar?

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  14. Joanne
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 07:06:54

    Time it will take you to read?

    Huh. If I buy a book it’s for the story not to add a title to my ‘list of books I’ve read pile’. It’s not a race.

    I buy Harlequin/Silhouette when a new author strikes a cord with a plot/trope I like or a favorite author has a new release. Not because they’re short or quick.

    If J.R. Ward or Meljean Brook or Nalini Singh start putting out 80 page novellas for 8.99 I’ll start backtracking on purchases- but never because they load up their books with long and interesting stories.

    Price is always a consideration when I’m shopping for anything but that doesn’t mean that I’m willing to sacrifice quality just to own an item. That’s probably more to the point when I’m buying books. It can be free but if it’s crap then it’s crap at any price.

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  15. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 07:07:03

    I think the idea of weighing the time it takes to read a book is a nonstarter. I think as book junkies, we all have (or do) buy books we KNOW we’ll never read.

    My friend [...] wondered whether the increase in YA books was affecting the adult market [...] Frost thought the YA market fostered the adult market [...] Marr didn't understand the concept arguing that we aren't limited to a particular number of books per year.

    I don't read just paranormal, urban fantasy, classic literature, or just YA.

    Certainly we are limited to a certain number of books per year by any number of factors that don’t involve the time it takes to read them. Buying the book does not mean the book actually gets read.

    ANY book I read takes away from any OTHER book I might have read at that moment. As others have said, the finite resource of time makes every book an opportunity loss for another, but how do you measure that?

    The trick is to make sure that the book is available for easy purchase AND attractively priced when someone is in the mood to BUY the book. Whether they READ it or not is up for grabs.

    I know massive readers/TBR-pilers and I know non-readers. I don’t know anybody in between, i.e., the people who buy or borrow one book every once in a while because it was trendy or it caught their eye in Sam’s Club or they’re reading Twilight so they can decide whether to let their kids read it. These aren’t people who go to a bookstore or library for the purpose of getting books as its own activity. These are the people for whom, I think, time would actually figure into their decision.

    (What I do think about YA versus adult is that people are turning to YA to give them what they aren’t getting in adult fiction. Or at least, that’s the vibe I’ve gotten from reading the book blogs. But that’s another discussion entirely.)

    ETA: I buy on the blurb, but a price I’m not comfortable with will stop me if I’m on the fence about the story at all.

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  16. HeatherK
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 07:21:02

    With a few rare exceptions, money is the #1 deciding factor when it comes to buying books. Though I prefer ebooks, I bought 21 romances that looked new at a yard sale this weekend for $7. None of them were authors I’ve ever read, though I am familiar with the names. It was a deal that was just too good to pass up. All but five were paranormals and those five were romantic suspense. If I like the authors, I’ll be adding their names to my buy lists and watching out for new books in my prefered format.

    I have passed up favorite authors because the book was priced too high (mostly happens when they’re hard covers). With such a limited amount of $$ to spend each month on books, I have to make each dollar count for all I can. The price has to be right and is teh blurb catchy are my major deciding factors, unless it’s an author I dislike then it won’t matter how catchy it is because I won’t buy it. A catchy title helps, but a bad title won’t make me put a book down. Same with covers. Genre doesn’t really matter, though I do prefer paranormals and cowboys (not necessarily together). I don’t mind YA books, but a majority are in first person, which I do mind. It’s a format I just don’t care for.

    Time is very rarely a factor because I read slower than molasses in winter, so it’s going to take me a day or two or three regardless depending on a variety of issues and book length/font size. Though I will shy away from new to me authors with monster sized books because it does take me so long to read. I hate having to take three days to read a book, but if it’s a favorite author, I will do it. Once I know I like an author, I won’t hesitate at all to pick up those thicker books.

    On the book vs. movie thing, it’s a matter of the movie can be enjoyed by more than just me. I’m the only reader in this house, so a book only benefits me. A movie, on the other hand, can be watched by everyone here at the same time. You just can’t do that with a book. Don’t get me wrong. I love books and reading, but in this household, the movie has greater value.

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  17. Terry Odell
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 07:27:21

    I always look for the longest possible book for my money. I hate the idea of plopping down (relatively) big bucks for something I’ll be finished with in an afternoon. I want the most bang for my buck.

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  18. Tracey
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 07:39:08

    Do you believe you have finite resources?

    No, I know damned well that I have finite resources. When you live on a disability check, having little money and worrying about paying bills is a way of life. Books are a rare luxury that must be saved up for.

    Is time or money the motivating factor in preventing a book purchase?

    Definitely money. I have plenty of time to read.

    Does the issue of time or money ever impact your buying decisions?

    Money is an issue all the time. And not just in buying books, but in every purchase.

    Would you turn away from one book and buy another if the other is at a cheaper press? Or shorter?

    If I can get one book for less than the other and they’re both books that I want, I’ll buy the cheaper one.

    (Please note that I’m talking about print books, not e-books. I don’t buy e-books because they take up space on a five-year-old computer that I cannot afford to replace, and obviously I cannot afford to spend $399 or so on an e-reader–the cost, for me, is prohibitive.)

    I do read many books that are labeled YA, but honestly, I don’t care about the label…I just care about the books being entertaining.

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  19. Melissa
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 07:43:18

    I am surprised people think YA books would take the place of adult books. I am a big paranormal romance reader and I don’t read YA books.

    Movies are totally different than books for me. I spend most of my free time reading but I also enjoy a really good movie. I will pay more for a movie because I think it’s worth more based on the money and effort that went into making it and the quality of the finished product. I have turned my old DVD’s into book purchases by trading them on Swap A DVD then using credits on Paperback Swap, which is pretty cool since I use PBS to get a lot of older paperbacks. Not all of us only read new releases, I love to read older romances from the 90′s and 2000′s that I somehow missed.

    I think the quality of a book is much more important than the length. I want to read good books that I get for a reasonable price – yes the newly inflated ebook prices have caused me to not buy books that I wouldn’t have thought twice about simply because I think the publishers are trying to screw us. I need an ebook to be at least 50 cents to a dollar cheaper than the paper version for me to buy it.

    Authors need to worry more about the quality of their own book rather than what other books are out there in competition.

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  20. CathyKJ
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 08:01:27

    Do you believe you have finite resources?
    Definitely not, especially this year as I’m about to buy a house. I’ve already declared 2010 to be the year of the book I already own.

    Is time or money the motivating factor in preventing a book purchase?
    Definitely money. I have a big TBR pile, but if I buy a new book I know that I will make the time for it at some point.

    Does the issue of time or money ever impact your buying decisions?
    Again, money, absolutely. I had some saved up Amazon gift cards, and bought several Kindle books on my wishlist the day before agency pricing took effect. I “saved” $12.
    Pre-Kindle, I almost exclusively bought mmpb, but didn’t mind paying full price. Now, I’m more willing to take a chance on a trade that’s priced at $9.99, but I also expect a discount on my mmpbs.

    Would you turn away from one book and buy another if the other is at a cheaper press? Or shorter?
    Not usually. If it’s a $5, 10k word novella, then I’ll turn away. But if it’s 300 vs 350 pages, then probably not. If I only want to spend $10, then I might buy 2 cheaper books instead of 1 trade, but if I really want to read the just-published hot new trade pb, then I’ll go ahead and spend my money there. If I’m just in the mood to treat myself to a new book, I sometimes look only at the under $5 offerings, but it also depends on what I’m in the mood for. For me, price guides my decisions but doesn’t lead them.
    The one caveat to this (for me) is that I rarely buy YA books, and am often reluctant to pay $9.99 for a YA novel. I’ve held off on buying Graceling because of the price, even though I really enjoyed the sample and it’s gotten good reviews. I don’t have a great explanation for why I think $9.99 is too much for YA (especially since some YA is much better written than some adult novels), but I just see that pricetag and almost always try to find the book through a different source (borrowing, PBS, etc.). I was reluctant to buy Hunger Games because of the price and was finally able to borrow it from a friend. Read it, loved it, wanted to buy Catching Fire (even though I knew it would be $9 or so), and discovered it’s not available for the Kindle. Six of one, half dozen of the other….

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  21. Jennifer Estep
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 08:16:07

    @Jane: I was talking more about going to the movies. Even at cheap time, my significant other and I can’t go for less than $16. Then, if I like something enough to want to buy the DVD, that’s another $20. I actually think it’s cheaper just to skip the theater and buy the DVD these days.

    I’m not going for the big screen experience — I’m going because I don’t want to wait four months for the DVD. It’s like paying full price for a book that I want to read immediately.

    But once the movie is over, that’s it. If I want to rewatch it, then I have to buy the DVD, subscribe to a movie channel, or wait for it to come out on cable. All of which still costs me more money.

    But once I buy a book, it’s mine. There are no more charges. There are no DVDs to buy, no Blu-Ray players, no extra wait, nothing.

    I agree with you that people probably value movies more because they are more expensive to produce. But how many more people will see a movie than will read a particular book? We can go see movies for $8 because millions of people go to the movies. It’s a rare case that millions of people read the same book, buts thousands of books are $8.

    I understand what you are saying about your entertainment serivce, but you can get books for free at your local library — more books than you could read in a lifetime. Sure, they may not all be the books that you want to read, but how many programs are on your entertainment service that you don’t like or never watch?

    As for what’s a better value for your money, it depends on what you value more and what you want to spend your time on, which is the point of your original blog post. As for me, I think that books are one of the best entertainment bargains around.

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  22. Mina Kelly
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 08:33:24

    I put money, but on reflection I think it’s actually time. Though most of my purchases are either ePub ebooks or secondhand print in order to save money, the reason I’ve been cutting down on purchases is to keep my “to read” pile getting out of hand, and what’s that if not an issue of time? I could easily go the rest of this year without purchasing another book, but I know I won’t.

    Money is the main thing that stops me when I’m in the shop, or online. Time is what stops me going there in the first place.

    I rarely buy hardcovers, and I rarely buy new paperbacks these days either (a combination of the closure of Borders and the fact prices are passing the £10 mark). It’s rare for me to come across an eBooks I don’t like the price of, as long as they’re in dollars. Love that exchange rate. I almost never buy eBooks on Amazon.co.uk (and Amazon.com tends to notice I’m not American), since there seems to be something of a price hike even taking VAT into account.

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  23. Liz Fichera
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 08:45:05

    Money is certainly a factor, unless it’s a book that I absolutely must have and read. However, ease has also become a factor too. I want a book when I want it. That’s why e-books have become so attractive; the fact that they aren’t as expensive as hardcovers is a bonus too. I don’t associate lower price with lower quality, especially when it comes to e-books.

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  24. Janet P.
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 08:49:39

    For me the buying decision relates to money. Whether or not I buy an eBook today or this week is a reflection of whether or not I think it is fairly priced. If it is well priced, I catalog it into Calibre and figure I’ll read it “someday.” This is how I’ve ended up with hundreds of unread eBooks.

    The reading decision however is time. I’ve been reading short stories and Anthologies this week because I don’t feel like I have the “time” to get engrossed into a full length novel or series.

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  25. Joy
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 08:51:46

    It’s about the money balanced by perceived value, and time (as expressed as a function of length of text) plays into perceived value; the more time it takes me to read it the *better*. The higher the thing scores on the value scale(s), the more likely I am to pay more for it. But I will always try to find the best price for it (library copy, used book sale, e-book, etc.) unless it scores very high in the author scale, because the author is the most important value scale I have. I am much more likely to take a chance on a new author through the library, used book sales, or e-book.

    A novel is worth more than a novella which is worth more than a short story

    A loved author is worth more than a liked author is worth more than an unknown-but-interesting-looking author. Author trumps nearly everything; some authors I will buy in hardback, first day of release, no question. There are other authors I will buy but only at a deep discount (I’ll wait for the paperback/e-book/library copy)

    A hardback is worth more than a trade pb which is worth more than a mmpb which is worth about the same as an e-book.

    A low price is a great incentive to take a chance on a new author or an e-books.

    This says I buy Lois McMaster Bujold’s books hot off the press in hardback whether there is a discount or not, and that I buy unknown authors as e-book / used book / library copy /mmpb to see if I’ll like them enough to buy or read more. I usually wait for bestsellers to come out in the library because they always do (with many copies), and most (not all) bestselling authors are on my “liked author” and not “loved author” lists, so I’m willing to wait to read them for free.

    Availability also plays a role, while I think mmpb prices should be higher than e-book, e-book easy availability makes it more likely that I would buy an e-book. Another benefit of e-book is space, as in I’m running out of bookshelves. I will pay a premium, of course, for an out-of-print used book by a loved author, but I doubt publishers care about that.

    I read over a hundred books a year, sometimes several hundred, about half of which I buy, and probably 2/3 of those bought are bought new (not used) and therefore I (not particularly humbly) think it is readers like me that publishers ought to be marketing to. I sink a lot of money into books, but I want value for that money.

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  26. Keishon
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 08:54:32

    Cost is more of a determining factor v. time because I have hundreds of books that I haven’t even read yet. I don’t turn down buying door stoppers if they’re good. They can be fast reads, too. Yes, I have finite resources and very little time to read these days. Also, since I can’t seem to find new books now & new books that interest me (outside of your HQN digital post) TV is a competing factor. I am avidly watching several shows and that has taken up what used to be my reading time and I’m not a big TV watcher.

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  27. Joy
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 09:07:01

    @Jennifer Estep:

    What really puzzles me is that folks will go drop $20 on a movie for two hours of entertainment but won't do the same for a book that will last longer, that they can re-read, and that they can sell/trade in. Why are books valued less than other forms of entertainment?

    We have Netflix. We spend $20 a month for basically unlimited movies, most of which my husband watches, but I only watch a few, because it takes time from reading :)

    Movies I’ve seen in the theater in the past year? 2. Books I’ve read so far this year? 157. Most of which I bought in e-book, most between $1.50 and $6 (new, but discounted).

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  28. Jennifer Estep
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 09:55:10

    @Joy: I had a friend who got frustrated because he couldn’t get what he wanted on Netflix, so now he’s gone to Redbox and is loving it so far.

    157 books? So far this year? That’s impressive! ;-)

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  29. Jill Myles
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 10:02:01

    I can stream an unlimited amount of tv and movies for $8.95 per month. A mass market ebook costs me about the same today. Which is the better value for my dollar?

    I think this comparison is apples and oranges. You’re arguing as to whether or not “owning a book is worth $8.95″ vs “participating in a service that allows you to borrow unlimited numbers of movies to watch a month”. To me they are two different things.

    I mean, I know of this great service that lets you borrow an unlimited amount of books a month. Why are you spending $8.95 for your entertainment when the library is free? ;)

    I think the equation is better served with “Why do people buy DVDs at $20 but balk at buying a book for $20″ rather than comparing borrowing/renting to an individual purchase.

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  30. El
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 10:12:17

    Used to buy whatever I thought I might want; now I have a gazillion books I’ll probably never get around to reading.

    These days I buy what I DO want, namely a book I know I’ll read/reread. In other words, the criteria have changed, and I’m spending a HELL of a lot less money, but it’s not changing my reading habits all that much.

    I also use the library a lot more; sometimes that leads to buying, mostly not.

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  31. Deb
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 10:51:08

    “Why do people buy DVDs at $20 but balk at buying a book for $20″ rather than comparing borrowing/renting to an individual purchase”.

    I agree this comparison makes more sense. I don’t believe the demographic is the same. The video demographic generally aren’t the voracious readers we are. Also, the perceived value of the video includes the performance of a popular star vs. the author whose work is the value and not the author her/himself.

    Hollywood makes their biggest profit when the movies are released to the theaters, not with the DVD sales. Attendance in theaters are down, and DVD sales are falling due to subscription service. The concerns are similar.

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  32. Jane
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 11:03:35

    @Deb Ticket sales are actually up in 2009 and 2010 (box office receipts up 10%). DVDs can make movies profitable even when the theatrical release was a bust (Serenity for example).

    Even if the books/video market is not the same demographic (I would argue that the books demo market is a subset of the overall video demographic market comprising of a much larger segment of the buying population), the perceived value of a good is affected by similarly situated goods.

    Netflix offers an on demand rental service. eBooks, without the ability to share, lend, resell, are an on demand rental service. Digital goods are perceived to be of lesser value. Full stop.

    Digital books are not a special enough good to NOT be affected by similarly situated goods.

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  33. hapax
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 11:26:00

    Like practically everybody else, my criteria for choosing a book are a) the story b) the author c) the story.

    Almost always I go to the library first. If I think that I’ll want to re-read it OR lend it, then I’ll buy it.

    (OR if I can’t get it from the library. But it’s surprising how few books this applies to, with the availability of inter-library loan. Of course, if traditional publishing goes down the tubes, this may change)

    I simply can’t imagine hearing about a book I want to read, and then thinking, “Oh, that costs too much / is too short / too long, I guess I’ll get this other book instead.”

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  34. Tracey
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 11:36:13

    I simply can't imagine hearing about a book I want to read, and then thinking, “Oh, that costs too much / is too short / too long, I guess I'll get this other book instead.”

    Trust me when I say that’s a consideration. If my choice is between a thick paperback that costs 7.99 and a thick hardcover that costs 25.99, I’m going with the paperback because it’s nearly twenty dollars cheaper and I can apply the money I save on the paperback toward my bills. I will then try to get the hardcover from the library. And if it’s not available–as new books often are not at my library–then I will wait for it to come out in paperback.

    The one exception I will make is for The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. Those, I buy new. But I also budget for the brand-new hardcovers six months in advance.

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  35. Jeaniene Frost
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 11:52:44

    Hi Jane. First, thanks for your question to Pam that she broached to Melissa and I during our podcast. The question of competition comes up a lot, be it in relation to genres, markets, or authors, so it was great to get a chance to address it.

    “Do you believe you have finite resources?”

    Yes. Actually, I'd be amazed if anyone answered “no” to this question (unless Bill Gates happens to read Dear Author :). As for Melissa’s remark that there were no limits to the books we consume (exact comment was “…If we had a limited number of books we were allotted a year in some sort of horrific dystopian society…”) she was referring to her disagreement with the concept that a sale from one market essentially *prevented* a sale in another market.

    Money will always be a limiting factor in purchasing for all but, what, 2% of the super-rich in society? But if a reader walks into a store and has a $30.00 book budget for that excursion, for example, buying a YA for $14.00 doesn't mean that reader can't also buy two mmpks in the adult market for about $7 a book. Or one mmpk if the YA cost around $18. Or maybe that reader will buy a cheaper YA for around $10.00 and then a $20.00 adult hardcover, or a cheaper YA and then three cheaper mmpks. It's up to the reader as to what combination they choose if they want to buy in both markets. Budgeting will always exist, but the idea that if Person A buys a book from the YA market, that's taking away from a sale in the adult market doesn't make sense to me considering the popularity of the adult and YA paranormal markets at present. That's just my two cents. I'll be interested to see what sort of numbers your friend comes up with.

    “Is time or money the motivating factor in preventing a book purchase? Does the issue of time or money ever impact your buying decisions?”

    This is another question that I think merits an “of course” answer, since no one I know has unlimited amount of money or time. However, for myself, if a book comes out by a must-read author for me (and my list of those isn't large), then I'll usually run out and grab as soon as it releases, even if I'd had to save up in advance because it's a hardcover. I have x-amount of money each month that I can spend on personal entertainment so I ration it according to what's most important to me. Since I read far more than I watch TV or go out, books are my main form entertainment. A big month book buying means other stuff might not fit in my budget for that month, like going out to the movies, new shoes, getting TIVO or ON Demand (my family's horrified that I still don't have either) dinners out, etc. But that’s me choosing what I’d rather have for that month. If it's not a book by a must-read author for me, then I'll definitely price shop. Most of the books I buy are mass market paperbacks because they're cheaper, and I'll get them wherever is most convenient for me (book store, grocery store, Target, pharmacy, or online retailer). Time matters, too. If it's a book by an author I love, it gets moved to the top of my TBR pile once it comes out. Author I haven't tried yet? I'll get to it – eventually.

    Would you turn away from one book and buy another if the other is at a cheaper press? Or shorter?

    Did you mean “cheaper press” or “cheaper price”? I'll answer assuming you meant “cheaper price”. If I haven't read anything by either author and both book descriptions intrigue me equally, price would be the tipping factor, sure. But then again, so would length. If it's two books by two unknown authors to me, both cost the same, but one is clearly a lot shorter than the other, I'll buy the longer book because I'll feel like I'm getting better value for my money. If it's an author I'm a fan of, though, then that trumps everything else. If I already know I like that author's style, to me, choosing that is a safer bet for my money, even if it's shorter/costs a dollar or so more.

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  36. Jennifer Estep
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 12:30:37

    @Jill Myles: Yes, thank you. You said it much better than I did.

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  37. Jane
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 12:34:56

    @jillmyles but for digital books, you are just borrowing, like netflix. There is no ownership.

    Now do i think netflix is comparable to a physical book? Of course not, but the physical book also has some value to me such as my ability to own it, lend it, resell it or turn it into paper mâché characters for a tot.

    There is a big difference between library institutions and on demand streaming of content which is why people are willing to pay for the on demand streaming.

    I think it is ironic that authors can compare books to theatrical showings but find the on demand streaming of video not comparable to digital books.

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  38. Jane
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 12:36:15

    @el it sounds Ike for most readers, certain books and authors will not be affected by any barrier, but lesser known authors or those that readers are uncertain about will be subject to the money/time impediments.

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  39. Tabby
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 12:37:53

    @Jennifer Estep:

    Why are books valued less than other forms of entertainment?

    Authors and their books are a dime a dozen. And authors seem happy with just about any deal they can get or even if they’re not happy they’ll take it. I know there’s amazingly talented exceptions to that rule–I am a reader after all–but for all intents and purposes that’s what it boils down to.

    “The problem is that authors rarely get a choice when it comes to ‘picking' publishers. That's really not how it works. You finish a book, your agent sends it out, and you hope that someone is interested in buying it. Rarely do you have publishers competing for a work, so there's not a lot of ‘choices' to make.” –Author Jordan Summers (SBTB blog titled Buy Used on Amazon, with Prime Shipping and Trade-In Value)

    Then add in the number of books published each year–it’s absolutely mind boggling. And the reason that number is so high is because it costs next to nothing to write and publish them. In terms of dollars it costs a publisher–what maybe $10,000 – $15,000 (total guestimate on my part) for a big name publisher to pay the author and any other expenses? A couple hundred bucks for an epub or self publisher?

    “A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers, according to statistics released this morning by R.R. Bowker. The number of “nontraditional” titles dwarfed that of traditional books whose output slipped to 288,355 last year from 289,729 in 2008. Taken together, total book output rose 87% last year, to over 1 million books.” — Jim Milliot (Publishers Weekly 4/14 Self-Published Titles Topped 764,000 as Traditional Output Dipped)

    Movies and video games take a specialized skill set and an investment in the hardware needed before anyone can even think about creating them. Which is why there’s only about 3000 movies and video game titles (each) published a year. That initial investment needed to create them and the relatively low number produced each year maintains and keeps their value perceived value high. And it’s why consumers, rightly imo, will pay more for them.

    I think the fact that anyone makes any money in this business given those kinds numbers is proof that people do value books and like to support authors–up to a point. And I think we’re at that price point now for most authors.

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  40. Joy
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 12:57:35

    @Jane:
    it sounds Ike for most readers, certain books and authors will not be affected by any barrier, but lesser known authors or those that readers are uncertain about will be subject to the money/time impediment

    This is where free and very cheap books come in, because if I’m just browsing for a new book, not looking for anything in particular, I will always read/buy a free or cheap book that sounds interesting; if it costs $9.99, I am not verylikely to take a chance on that new author. If I’m looking for something by someone new in particular, based on word of mouth/good reviews, I might spend more for an initial try.

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  41. Castiron
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 13:06:29

    Money is a little more of a factor than time, but author and story outweigh both.

    I’ll cheerfully pay full hardcover price for Bujold, or full MMPB price for an author I know I really enjoy. I’ve paid for Lord of the Rings at least three times in varying formats and don’t begrudge it at all, given the huge number of hours of pleasure I’ve gotten from rereading it.

    Author I’ve never heard of but whose work looks interesting? I’ll try and find the book in a library. If it’s e-only, I might spend a few dollars on the book, but it’d take a really good review. (Or a history of good blog posts and/or thoughtful blog comments; I’ve bought a few books as “royalty payments” for the author’s interesting writing elsewhere.)

    Author whose work doesn’t look that interesting? 99 cents is too much.

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  42. MaryK
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 14:00:16

    A lot of the new YA has interested me, and I’m buying more of it than before. BUT … if they’re pricey or hardcovers, I look for them used. I understand the whole hardcover for library use explanation, but seriously, they’re expensive. Now the TPBs that come out at $8 or $9, those I like and have no problem paying the new price for.

    However, I have heard that lower priced books like the Kensington debut books priced at $3.99 or so actually sold poorly because the lower price indicated a lower quality.

    Hmmm, I wonder about that. Is it the lower price that signals lower quality or the fact that they’re unknown quantities and advertised as such? “Debut” in terms of books doesn’t inspire my confidence unless I’ve heard good buzz beforehand.

    Do you believe you have finite resources?

    Oh, if you could see my piles of books! I believe it, but I don’t act like it!

    Is time or money the motivating factor in preventing a book purchase? Does the issue of time or money ever impact your buying decisions? Would you turn away from one book and buy another if the other is at a cheaper press? Or shorter?

    Okay, this is funny. Money definitely impacts my buying decisions. Time doesn’t. Time/length of the book influences whether or not I actually pick the book up and read it after I’ve bought it.

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  43. TheHoyden
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 14:09:37

    As someone who reads both adult & young adult books I thought I’d mention that I’m just as likely to buy a new young adult author’s hardcover book as I am to buy a new adult author’s mass market paperback.

    The reason is because with Amazon Prime I’m able to usually buy a young adult hardcover for somewhere around $10, only a few bucks more than a mass market paperback (right now Marr’s Radiant Shadows is only $9.17!) and I like the smaller size of young adult hardcovers and will always keep them if I end up liking them. I hate the larger size of most adult hardcovers so I usually check those out at the library and then wait for them to come out in paperback if I want to buy them. So I guess with me it’s a size issue?

    Although if I’m dying to read a book right away & am too far down on library waiting list then I will buy it right away even if it’s a large hardcover (like Juliet Marillier.)

    That’s another reason why I end up buying so many hardcover young adult books by new authors. It can take a few months for a library in my system to order a new author’s book so if it’s something that sounds super interesting, is getting good reviews, and I liked the excerpt on the author’s website then I’ll order it right away.

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  44. MaryK
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 14:10:12

    Would you turn away from one book and buy another if the other is at a cheaper press?

    I was going to say this: “No. Books aren’t interchangeable. Maybe if both were by authors equally unknown to me.”

    But, in thinking about it, I have passed on books I wanted to read because the price was too high. So, the answer must be yes. I didn’t necessarily turn around and buy a substitute, but I did not buy the one I was looking at.

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  45. Jennifer Estep
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 14:24:46

    @Tabby: I would agree that Jordan Summers’ quote is spot on. If an author turns a publisher down, there are always more authors/more books waiting in the wings.

    But as for movies and video games taking a specialized skill set to create, well, so do books. Telling a good story — no matter what format — takes skill. I know it’s the way of the economy/world, but I still find it interesting that society places different values on storytelling based on the format that it comes in.

    These days, you would think that movies would get cheaper as more people have access to the technology that goes into making them.

    I wonder how the 700,000+ non-traditional books would compare to the thousands of videos that get uploaded on Youtube in a year — if the proportion of traditional vs. nontraditional in both media would be roughly the same. Just a random thought.

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  46. Jill Myles
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 14:39:38

    @jillmyles but for digital books, you are just borrowing, like netflix. There is no ownership.

    But isn’t there? I think of ebooks like I think of iTunes or Software. You own a copy of the file which gives you the right to stick it on any of your devices that you want. You are buying your ‘copy’ of that file.

    To me, for ebooks to have an equivalent product as Netflix, you would have to ‘buy’ membership to a club where, for $10.00 a month, you can borrow up to 3 ebooks at any time and when you ‘return’ the files, you get up to 3 ebooks more.

    (Note. I’d totally join a service like that)

    There is a big difference between library institutions and on demand streaming of content which is why people are willing to pay for the on demand streaming.

    What is the difference you are thinking of? I’m not trying to argue. I’m just trying to ‘see’ where we are disagreeing. I know my library has ebooks on file where you can request to ‘check’ them out, and you return them just like any other book.

    Or do you mean streaming as in ‘on demand at that very moment’? I know the library still has a queue.

    I think it is ironic that authors can compare books to theatrical showings but find the on demand streaming of video not comparable to digital books.

    I never said anything about theaters, but my opinion is that there’s not an equivalent (book-wise) to going to the theater. To me, ebooks are more like software/mp3s/etc. You can choose to buy software online or you can join a streaming service (Steam comes to mind) or you can join Gamefly…etc.

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  47. Jill Myles
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 14:43:37

    Also, I read somewhere (I wish I could remember where) that movie theaters are having enormous success with 3-D movies (which is why so many of them are coming out). Not only can they charge more for the 3-D experience, but it gets people out of their houses to go and have the 3-D experience at the theater rather than waiting for the DVD.

    I don’t think ebooks, no matter how nifty, can compete with that. ;)

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  48. Tabby
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 15:04:16

    @Jennifer Estep: Writing is a common skill that’s learned in grade school–it’s really not specialized at all. Which is why you’ll often hear readers say things like “I could write better than that” even though we all know they probably couldn’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that readers can write–even if they have no talent for it and haven’t studied the craft–and it costs next to nothing in terms of equipment needed to write. Creating movies and video games really does require learned skills the general public doesn’t have and in addition to that a substantial outlay of cash to boot–publishing a video clip on youtube doesn’t compare, imo.

    So it isn’t just a matter of the format the story is told in it’s the actual cost to produce that story and the scarcity (280,000 vs. 3,000 even just using “traditional” publishers) that adds value. It just plain costs more to make a movie or a video game. People know that and are willing to pay more because of it.

    If you want books to have a higher value lobby for a $100,000 per book publishing tax. I guarantee the number of books published each year will plummet and the cost of the remaining books that do get published will rise dramatically–and people will pay it.

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  49. Jane
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 15:48:43

    @Jill Myles I might have a different definitional concept of ownership than you. Ownership to me is something held in fee simple, which essentially means you can do anything you want with it. The right of first sale is imbued in that object of purchase as is the right to rip it up.

    There are other rights such as ownership for life which means your right to the property terminates with your death and the property reverts to someone else. You cannot bequeath your interest in a life estate.

    When there are boundaries on useage, no right of resale, no right of sharing, lending, no ability to use it cross platform, those are elements more of lending or rental than of ownership.

    Thus, books in a cloud, like the Kindle books, limited to be viewed through on the Kindle App and the Kindle devices are much like the Netflix on Demand which allows unlimited access for a price (currently 8.95).

    The difference between On Demand access and a physical library has to do not only with queue lines, but also with the barriers to access. How much easier is it to access content directly from your home or your hotel room or wherever you than actually going out somewhere and having to park, etc.

    I.e., there is a difference between delivery, dine in and carry out.

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  50. becca
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 15:55:07

    There are 3 authors I’ll buy in HB when they first come out (Bujold, Nora, and Pratchett). I’ve pretty much stopped reading the Lauren Willig books because my library doesn’t carry them, and they’re just too expensive as trade paperbacks. (but I bought almost all the Heyer re-releases in the trade format, because I love them all so.)

    If it’s a new-to-me author, it better have an A rating here or at SBTB, or sound like something I’d normally absolutely love. Even then, I’m hesitant if the book is in HB or trade.

    I don’t do ebooks because, for me, the value just isn’t there until the DRM and format wars settle down. And right now they’re just too damn expensive.

    I don’t read YA (no patience with teenaged angst). I don’t read door-stop books. And I don’t tend to read HQN because they’re usually too short for my tastes, no matter how good the price is. I’ve got a finite amount of time and money, and a book I do buy and read means that there’s another book that I don’t buy or read.

    But I’ll happily pay $11 for my audible books, because I’m willing to pay for the performance factor as well as the plot and story-telling. And I’ll frequently purchase the same book as an audiobook and in print. And I do re-listen.

    btw, Nobody has answered me on why audibooks can be sold for $11 by audible and have them still make a profit, but an ebook has to sell for half again that much. (maybe I should stop asking, for fear they’ll raise the audible prices on me!)

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  51. Jane
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 15:58:50

    @Jeaniene Frost

    First, I don’t perceive competition to be a negative. Further, I don’t perceive competition means that you can’t help others to get ahead at the cost of your own career.

    Second, I do think that there is displacement on both a micro and macro level but it depends on several factors.

    1) A micro level displacement occurs if a reader foregoes an adult book purchase for a YA purchase due to finite financial resources. There is no macro market loss here as dollars aren’t leaving the book market, but shifted from one sub genre to another.

    2) A larger micro level displacement occurs if overall adult market saturation and dissatisfaction leads to readers moving from the adult market to something else. This something else could be YA books resulting in no market loss.

    3) On a larger scale, if there is mass displacement from one market to another (which some felt happened in the early to mid 2000s when readers moved away from historicals to paranormals), the one market does become diminished either because editors are buying less or publishing houses move marketing dollars away from one market to support another market or editors are only able to offer lowered advances.

    4) I don’t believe either the micro or macro level displacements are the result of authorial acts. In other words, I don’t think that it pays to try to undermine another author’s work in order to see your own book have success (of course, using you in the general sense). I think those market shifts and displacements happen sometimes regardless of authorial intervention to the extent that there can be any (and truly what could one author do to another? Withhold a cover quote? Refuse to allow them to sign? Snub them at a signing? etc? what marginal effect could that have?)

    Also, I think that the fostering of the YA market is really important because we need young readers to come into the adult market as the aging baby boomer population leaves the reading market due to poor eyesight, death, other disability. So the rise of the YA market, even if it would come at the expense of a contraction of the adult market is important for the future of the adult market.

    As for “cheaper press” I did mean cheaper press as in digital presses or indie authors charging less for their books.

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  52. Jane
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 16:03:42

    @becca: I’ve wondered about the low cost of digital audio books myself!

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  53. Deb
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 16:21:45

    @Jane, I had to look up Serenity. I’m in the battle axe stage of life! If I understand the popularity of that film, it enjoys a cult like following (I think). I wonder how many of the films are able to generate that kind of following. DVDs are now found in the used bookstores, so there is value added there too. I see your points.

    Digital goods are perceived as having less value. In the case of digital books, we know the quality is not the same as with print published books. This is where the publishers are dead wrong. The copy editing on the digital files too often is execrable. If the publishers don’t value the digital files similar to that of the print published, why should we? There is a built in shelf life with digital as well. A couple of years from now, the current iterations of the proprietary formats as well as the Adobe Adept system could render our current books dead.

    As far as the talent and skill sets of authors vs. multimedia artists, I have to say, authors talent can’t be ignored, I have a deep and abiding appreciation of the written word. However, the cost of study for the multimedia artists is much higher. The equipment and software really drive up the costs of multimedia. Doesn’t make them more valuable, just more expensive. I’d venture to guess, the cost of book apps will most likely bear this out with the major publishing houses.

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  54. Deb
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 16:29:46

    @becca and Jane; Audible is owned by Amazon. I think that has something to do with the low cost there. I purchased 1 audio book through iTunes, because I really wanted it, and paid through the nose. Haven’t done that since. I do have a subscription to Audible for my mom. $18.00 per month, she gets 1 book /month and I take her to the library for the rest of her reading (has low vision problems, can’t read print well anymore).

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  55. Jill Myles
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 17:24:33

    I.e., there is a difference between delivery, dine in and carry out.

    Ok, this made total sense to me and I do see where you are coming from. It’s still food, but do you want the experience of dining in or just picking it up. I gotcha.

    Also re: the cloud computing. I have a Sony PRS505 so when I buy an ebook, I download it to my PC and transfer it to my Sony. I know the Kindle is basically that you are buying a ‘loaner’ through them. What about the nook? Is it cloud-access like Kindle? I would assume so.

    (Not asking Jane directly, just the general populace)

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  56. becca
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 17:35:54

    Deb @ 54 Audible gets more affordable the more credits you buy. I get two credits per month for $23 – If I purchased whole lots of credits at one time, I think the price per credit goes down to $9-something. to me, $18/book for a digital download is too expensive.

    If your mom has vision problems, does she qualify for NLS? I understand that many of their books are as good as (or better than) commercial ones. Certainly I’ve heard that the NLS version of the In Death books is better, although I don’t know myself.

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  57. Jennifer Estep
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 17:45:18

    @Tabby: I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you. Everyone can “write,” but not everyone can “write books/stories” — at least, not at the skillful, professional level that publishers and readers expect/require.

    Even taking the cost/format out of the equation, as far as movies go, screenwriters usually don’t make nearly as much as actors/directors do. Why not? Without their words, there would be nothing to film, no story to make a video game out of in the first place. I just think it’s sad that words and having the skill to turn them into a complete story is valued so little.

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  58. DS
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 17:58:57

    Amazon has only owned Audible for two years (1/2008). I’ve been an audible member since 2003 and the price hasn’t changed that I am aware of in seven years although changes have been made in the plans– when I first joined credits had to be used in the month purchased. I have an annual plan that results in paying $9.56 for a credit. The majority of books are one credit.

    AFAIK Audible.com negotiates with the audio rights holders as book clubs do. The savings is in the fact that the books exist as files. Check the difference between books available on CD (1 CD per hour of recorded content approximately) and books available on CD as MP3 files (About 2 CDs for the majority of books).

    They used to be DRMed to high heaven, but it was possible to record to CD and then rip back as MP3′s. There were a couple of programs that could strip the DRM. However, now that I can used my audio books with Itunes I don’t bother stripping the DRM.

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  59. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 18:31:17

    @Jennifer Estep:

    I think Tabby’s point is that because everyone can read and pick up a pen and has paper, that the perception is prevalent that everyone can write a book/story.

    They perceive so because reading and writing is a universal life skill AND the materials to produce it are cheap.

    I think it’s analogous to the perception that ebooks are cheaper to produce than print books and thus, should cost MUCH less than print. Perception (not truth) rules the day in these cases.

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  60. Tabby
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 18:51:56

    @Jennifer Estep: I can agree to disagree with you but not because I don’t value the written word or because I don’t think it takes skill to write on a professional level–that’s not true at all.

    Everyone can “write,” but not everyone can “write books/stories” -’ at least, not at the skillful, professional level that publishers and readers expect/require.

    I agree with your statement 100%. And I’ll take it even a step further and say a lot of writers can write on the professional level but only a select few can write a really good story that captures the imagination and has almost universal appeal–that’s certainly a gift too. But as for words being valued so little I think you’re totally wrong about that and I have to agree with Deb when she said other media wasn’t “more valuable, just more expensive.” Because I do value books–more than movies even. I’d rather read a good book any day of the week before watching a good movie but I’ll pay more to watch a movie because it costs more to make. And not just costs a little more. A lot more. Hundreds of thousands of dollars more–if not millions.

    Even taking the cost/format out of the equation, as far as movies go, screenwriters usually don't make nearly as much as actors/directors do. Why not?

    Because there’s not millions of actors or directors available to choose from. And out of that smaller pool of talent you have to choose from even a smaller portion of those are suitable for a particular movie. It’s scarcity of goods. You can try to take the economics out of the equation but it just doesn’t work that way.

    There’s some art/products that transcend the cost to produce them but for most mass produced things how much something costs to make directly impacts the amount people are willing to pay for it. That seems fair to me and not sad at all.

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  61. illukar
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 19:33:16

    Everyone has finite time.

    My book purchasing decisions are based almost entirely on whether the story sounds interesting to me. If it is a particularly loved author, I might just possibly buy the book even if it doesn’t sound like a story I would enjoy. If I know the author to be a really bad one/does things I don’t like such as horribly torture main characters, I might possibly not buy the book despite the blurb sounding interesting.

    Length of book would only matter to me if we’re talking about a book in the 500,000 word range (in which case I’d suspect the story needed some solid editing).

    Price of book for a book I’m interested in matters only if it’s priced at some sort of inexplicable premium (ie. an ebook twice the price of the hard copy) – in which case I’m likely to wait until a cheaper version is available to me. If I’m lukewarm to the book, I’ll not buy it till it hits the bargain bins.

    If it’s a book I’m very interested in, price of book matters if the price is ludicrous, but otherwise I will buy hardcopy prices.

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  62. Anthea Lawson
    Apr 21, 2010 @ 00:25:01

    “However, I have heard that lower priced books like the Kensington debut books priced at $3.99 or so actually sold poorly because the lower price indicated a lower quality.”

    I think you may want to rephrase that to “a lower PERCEIVED quality.” Kensington debut books have the same production values as any publisher’s MMPB – maybe a little higher in some cases because the titles and author names are usually foiled and embossed.

    As far as the quality of the stories and the writing? In 2009 two books from the Debut Program were up for RITAs in the Best First Book category. (PASSIONATE and HER ONE DESIRE.) Both books got excellent reviews from the print and online communities (including one of them garnering an 84 from the notoriously picky Mrs. Giggles.)

    So I’d argue (and yes, as the co-author of one of those books, I clearly have a vested interest) that it’s a perceived value difference rather than the Kensington Debut books actually being inferior products. :)

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  63. Kristi
    Apr 21, 2010 @ 06:47:55

    It is easier to justify an impulse purchase that is cheaper.

    For example, last night I was at Borders. There were two new books out by two of my long-time favorite authors, both on the Hardcover Bestsellers display. Both had 30% off stickers, which is a decent deal on $25 books. But even though I’ve been waiting on one of them, and the other was a pleasant surprise, and I could afford them if I chose, I decided to wait. I have a TBR pile of dozens of books (darned Harlequin subscriptions) :)

    Yes, both hardcovers were priced 30% off full retail, and might not still be discounted when I come back to buy them later. But I can’t justify spending $40 with tax on two books when I have so many at home already.

    Had either one been $9.99 (or even less), I would have picked them both up. Had they been less than that, I might have added something else to the pile as well.

    I know there’s a difference between a single purchaser’s motivations, and consumers as an aggregate, but I took a little economics and I remember all those nifty graphs we had to analyze. Lower prices means more volume. It may not mean more books *read* by the consumers, but it means more books *bought* by the consumers. And that’s the difference that publishers’ financial departments ought to be concerned with.

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  64. Keishon
    Apr 21, 2010 @ 08:38:34

    I just reread my comment and realized it made no sense whatsoever. Sorry! I tried answering before I headed off to work. No excuse for not thinking it through but still. Obviously time is a factor as I have so little of it these days versus cost. But like I said, I am watching more TV and that is competing with my reading time.

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  65. Jennifer Estep
    Apr 21, 2010 @ 08:39:17

    @Moriah Jovan: Thanks. I agree with you that perception is everything these days.

    @Tabby: Oh, no. I wasn't trying to imply that you didn't value the written word/books. I think all of us do here, or we wouldn't be reading/commenting on blogs like this one. Mea culpa if it came across that way.

    But I would disagree with you about the talent pool for actors/directors being smaller. There are thousands of students in film school and folks waiting tables just waiting to be “discovered”. I don't think that talent pool is any larger or smaller than the one for writers, or people who want to be singers, painters, or whatever art form someone might be interested in.

    “There's some art/products that transcend the cost to produce them but for most mass produced things how much something costs to make directly impacts the amount people are willing to pay for it. That seems fair to me and not sad at all.”

    I don’t think I’m explaining myself well (ironic, I know). I get that it costs more to make movies and that’s why we pay more for them. I don’t have a problem with that. But I don’t think the intrinsic artistic value of something should be directly correlated to or based solely on its production cost — that’s what makes me sad. That no matter how good a book might be, lots of people will still look down their noses at it because it is “just a book” — kind of the way that some people think that genre fiction is less important/valuable than literary fiction. Does that make sense?

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  66. Joy
    Apr 21, 2010 @ 09:35:17

    @Tabby:
    I agree with your statement 100%. And I'll take it even a step further and say a lot of writers can write on the professional level but only a select few can write a really good story that captures the imagination and has almost universal appeal-that's certainly a gift too.

    Being able to finish something of length is also an issue. I am technically a commercially published fiction author, but I have never sold (or finished!) anything that wasn’t a short short. There is so much more to novel-writing than being able to write a good story.

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  67. Lisa Richards
    Apr 21, 2010 @ 10:12:20

    I read probably 150 to 200 books a year. I buy maybe 10 new a month. I buy used books cause if I haven’t read it, it is new! I trade for many at PBS or BM, especially if they are series books, cause they are going to sit on my shelf for awhile anyway. I seldom start a series until it is finished or there are 5 or 6 books out in it. Then I have a series marathon read. Price definitely is a factor but not the main one. I don’t buy HB nor Trade size. For the price of a $20 HB, I can get 3 or 4 MMP. For the price of the Trade size, 2 MMP, plus the HB and Trades don’t fit well in a purse. And ebooks, not at all. I’m not flushing $300(around 40 MMP)for a ereader and then fork out another $10 for the ebook. That’s crazy. You can’t trade it and I love to be able to pass on books I’ve enjoyed.
    The author, the blurb on the cover, and most especially, the recommendations of other bloggers determine which books I ultimately buy. The size or length, only somewhat. I don’t like short stories but occasionally will read them as series authors tend to have stories from their series in them, plus it’s a good way to get a taste of an unknown author. I read lots of genres including the YA’s. The idea that they take away from the adult market-ludicrous. These books are investments in future readers. These teens have finally figured out that books are just as entertaining as a movie. And the authors that do both YA and adult books are going to be way ahead of the curve as the teens age and turn to adult books. I would have given my right arm to have the selection of books that teens now have at their fingertips.
    Movies vs books-no comparison. The price of a movie will get me maybe 2 hours of entertainment while that same $8 would get me many more hours of entertainment in the comfort of my home with my imagination and a print book in my hand. The ones I saw in the last two years- 3 I think, were only because a group of friends went after a meal together. I generally wait for them to come out as rentals. The movie “experience”- highly over-rated when compared to my imagination and that of a well written book.

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  68. John J.
    Apr 21, 2010 @ 18:42:39

    I work with saved up birthday money here – of course I have finite resources! Even after working for a blog, the sheer amount of books I don’t read is so overcoming, that I still have endless supplies to pine for in the book store. Despite this, both are key factors for me. For instance, the last time I went to the bookstore and bought new, I bought Chloe Neil’s Firespell and Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones. I also recently bought Vladimir Todd #1, Life As We Knew It, and The Adoration of Jenna Fox. All various lengths, all various prices. If a book is cheap, I care about length far less. But before I buy, I also look at binding and word count per page. Some YA publishers double space and make bigger books that could easily be like Firespell in word-count and sell them for larger prices. I also think of reread value and other things – but the fact is that money has to be equal or lesser than time and enjoyment taken. If I know I’m gonna like a book, the price isn’t that big of a deal – or if I know I’ll get a lot of time and steady enjoyment. It’s when it’s expensive that it’s hard. Money has affected decisions majorly – I go with limited supplies, and I buy with limited supplies. I have also turned away from a book because another cost less – but that’s only if I have heard just as many good things about it. I don’t settle for bad books, ever. If I know one’s worth it, I’ll buy it. Plus, if I’m gonna spend money, I might as well spend it on something of quality. Shorter is along the same lines – for me, there is such a thing as too short. At least in young adult. I like my paranormal books meaty with world building and romance – historical and contemporary can be shorter, but only if they have a good plot and writing. I want to take more than a few hours to read it, and I want to be able to say the author spent too much time on it as opposed to not enough time on it. But that’s just me.

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  69. James Buchanan
    Apr 22, 2010 @ 21:27:37

    My buying habits are influenced by, in order of importance:

    1. Subject interest/Blurb
    2 Recommendations
    3. Blurb
    4. Format
    5. Price

    and 4 & 5 mix. An eBook costing hardback price…I’m not buying. A heavily discounted paperback will get bought over an eBook. just depends.

    BTW…yes LOLCats solve everything.

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