There’s an entire thread on Amazon’s discussion forum dedicated to the “high” cost of Kindle e-books. One commenter, J. Bryan, writes
I only buy books that are $3.99 or less. If the publishers and/or Amazon want to be greedy, that is their choice,but I will not pay.
J., I understand your position. $3.99 can seem like a lot of cash for a book. But, if I may…
COST PER WORD: BOOK VS. SONG
Consider the song “Sail” by Awol Nation, for example.
At $.99 for this 131-word song on Amazon.com, you’re paying approximately $.007 per word.
25 of those words are “sail.”
14 of them are this: “La la la la la la oh!”
5 words, “Sail with me into the dark,” are sung three times, so they account for 15.
Which leaves 74 original words at $.012/word. (I happily paid the $.012/word for “Sail.”)
Now, consider John Grisham’s Kindle version of The Client, well above your acceptable price range at $7.99.
The Client is 496 pages.
Cost: $.0161 per page (which is just a bit over the price per word for the song “Sail”).
Average word count per page: 250
Cost of The Client per word: $.00006
(Note: Even if some of the words in The Client are repeated, for a book’s repetition to match the repetition of a song, whole paragraphs or chapters would have to repeat, so we won’t count the “and” and “the” and “a” words as “repeats.”)
131-word song – $.012/word ($.99 for half a page)
124,000 (approx.)-word book – $.00006/word ($.0161 for a full page)
That was just for some perspective.
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The fortunate writer can plop an endless stream of words onto several pages in a single day, but what are the chances any of those words will be there tomorrow? Roughly 25%, or whatever. By the time you read a completed novel, the words on the page probably took the author, in terms of total time (not counting the days between allowed for thinking and musing and obsessing), four hours per page. (This is actually difficult to average, and I believe I’m being very,very conservative.) Those hours do include the initial writing, and then the editing, revising, deleting and rewriting, and finessing.
If the average Kindle book is between 20,000 and 100,000 words, at approximately 250 words per “page,” the author is being paid, when you buy either book at your price cap of $3.99, between $.0124/hour and $.0024/hour for their work.
(It’s actually less than that, because the authors don’t receive 100% of the proceeds. Amazon takes a cut, and the book’s publisher takes a cut.)
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I read things by people like J., and I want to say, I want to say, “J.? What do you do for a living? What do you do after you leave the house in the morning and in the hours before you go home for dinner? Is it something you went to school for? Is it something that requires a particular set of skills? Is it something you do better than someone else? Is it a service that involves someone on a receiving end who pays for what you give them?”
I want to say, “If I were to knock on your door, J., and if I were to say, ‘Hi, J. I found this thing you do when I was clicking my mouse over links on the internet, and I think I’d like your service. It looks like you work really hard at it. Yeah, no, I can tell I’d really like it. People have been saying great things about it, so I’d like to try it, too, like to spend the next few hours with it, just enjoying it. Oh, you do work hard at it? Really, really hard? Yeah, no, I can see that. That’s why I want it,’ what would you say?”
“The thing is, J.,” I’d say, “You’re charging too much. See, I found it on the internet, and you know how much of this stuff I can get for free on the internet? A lot of it, J. I can go on there right now and find ten, fifteen hundred of those things for free. Like yours? No, not like yours, but, they’ll basically be the same. I just want yours because I can tell it’s better, but because I can get other stuff like it for free, I was thinking maybe yours should–I mean, no, yeah, I’ll pay for it, but see, the thing is, I don’t want to pay more than four dollars.
“It took you how long to make that? A year? Well, you know, like I said, the free ones are available and I could get one of them, but I really, like I said, I want yours, and you should feel privileged that I’m choosing you. But, so, here’s four dollars, and that’s all I’m paying, because I just don’t think I should have to pay more for it than I want to.”
What if that thing is a hand-crafted bench, J.? A sculpture, a painting, a CD, an article of clothing that took someone six months to a year to create? “Would four bucks cover it, J.?” I want to say.
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You can buy a used paperback book for $.50 online, they argue in the thread. So why should anyone pay more than $3.99 for an e-book?
That’s a good question.
Answer: Those low-priced paperbacks have been available on Amazon for a long time. They made Amazon. You knew those cheap books were there when you spent $79 – $199 on a Kindle so you could have the convenience (and the coolness!) of ebooks.
Maybe…maybe you thought you were already spending enough on the e-reader – that it should somehow entitle you to receive free-to-cheap e-books.
Ha haha! No way. That’d be like if I thought, “WHY do tires cost $100 each? Agh, and they charge for labor? But I already spent the money on the CAR!”
Oh…oh, no. That WAS what you thought when you bought your Kindle, wasn’t it?
Well, get over it, ya whiny little bitches.
Watch: “Sh*t,” Writers Say.