The Price of e-Quality

I love rummaging in the 75%-off rail and finding a real gem – the dress I couldn’t afford that’s now the price of a cappuccino (well, that’s what I’d tell him) and in my size! Bliss doesn’t come any blissier. But we all know the pretend sales: the 50%-off signs that are up all year round and devalue the items because we know we’re not really getting a deal. For ‘special offer’ read ‘cheap tat we think you’re daft enough to buy’. Most of us are savvy enough to know rock-bottom prices don’t automatically mean a bargain.

So how much would you pay for a well-produced ebook for children? Think about it: new author, decent cover, seems well written, has a seal of quality (like Electrik Inc) and looks worth a read. 99p? £4.99? £8.99? Or £0?

A lot of people want free books, just as they want free films and free music. Maybe they think creative people have private incomes or rich partners, when the unpalatable truth is they’re more likely trying to hold down three part-time jobs, look after the kids, support their partner, care for mum and dad, clean the house, do the shopping, walk the dogs, feed the cats, have a tiny bit of a life and, oh, write…

Declan Burke discusses ‘Why should the price of ebooks…be on the floor?’  http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2012/0221/1224312113036.html#.T0VqEnorjeg.email  and confirms there are different kinds of readers – those who want ever-cheaper books and those who’ll pay for quality. He’s talking mainly about adult ebooks but his remarks apply to the children’s market too. I wouldn’t buy a book just because it was cheap any more than I’d buy ugly clothes just because they had 50% off. If the price is too low, something isn’t right.

Look at what you’d pay and apply it to the hours of pleasure your child would get reading the ebook. Then apply it to a year of someone’s creative life. Okay, then, six months, because we can work when everyone else is sleeping… okay, okay, three months! (wow, you’re a hard taskmaster)… because we’re all geniuses and don’t need to rewrite, or pay line editors and proofreaders to check our work. And who needs a decent design on the cover anyway? And pay Amazon a cut? Who’s Amazon?

Of course ebooks are cheaper to produce than physical books and of course prices should reflect that. But mainly, it’s only printers’ costs you save on. Next time you reach for that ‘bargain’, ask yourself if you’d go to work for six months (or three) for, let’s say, £1,980 (two thousand sales @ 99p. And that’s a lot; most new authors are lucky to sell five hundred). That’s about £165 a week, before Amazon’s cut or Apple’s (around 40% of your book’s list price, plus the VAT) or other expenses (ISBN numbers, £100 for ten), marketing, editing, proofreading, illustrations, cover design…

Rock-bottom prices for ebooks are, for me, the equivalent of the year-round 50%-off sales sign. I can’t trust them because I know the quality is probably rubbish (poor or mediocre writing, no editing, no decent design, no proofreading), so I walk away and look for something where the price fairly reflects the work that’s gone into the product. And yes, I think the Electrik Inc logo is one of the signs to look for.

I think prices will level out as more readers realise that if content is free – i.e. worth nothing – then we’re in danger of getting the writers we pay for.

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts on epricing. Should children’s ebooks be cheaper than adults’? (And remember, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter was much longer than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road so it’s not necessarily about the word count.)

Kay Leitch   Electrik Inc

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Price of e-Quality

  1. A thought provoking blog, Kay. I’d like to know what price readers think we should set for the ebook of St Viper’s School for Super Villains.
    Audience: a story suitable for 7 – 9 yr old confident readers.
    Word count: 18,000 words. 150 book pages. 23 chapters.
    Illustrations: 24 comic-style illustrations in colour or black and white (depending on the reading device).
    Please give me your thoughts if you have a moment.
    Thank you
    Kim
    Electrik Inc

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