I was doing a little chest beating last week, talking to my brother on the phone and telling him about Eyewall’s success on Amazon.com as the “Kindle Daily Deal.” On October 11, the Seattle-based retail giant dropped the price of Eyewall’s eBook edition to 99¢ for the day. And faster than you could shout “Fire sale!” the novel blazed to number 1 on the paid Kindle list. Even after the bargain period expired, the book remained in the top ten for three days.
My brother, Rick, wanted to know what the normal retail price of the eBook was. (Obviously, he doesn’t own a Kindle or Nook.)
“$12.95,” I said, “but on Amazon.com it typically goes for $8.99 [currently $7.99]. It’s a bit higher on Barnes & Noble.com.”
“Wow,” Rick said, “that much?”
“Whaddaya mean, That much? The trade paperback version retails for $14.95. And most eBooks are less than half the price of their hardback counterparts, if they have one.” I’d never thought of $8.99 as being a particularly onerous price to ask for a book.
“I know, I know,” Rick said, “but all you’re doing is downloading a digital file. How expensive can that be?”
“Whoa, hold on there, bro’. What about all the effort that went into producing that digital file? I mean, what about me? Don’t you think I deserve some remuneration for my time and talent?”
“Talent?” Rick said, incredulity ringing in his voice. Brothers, especially ones you love, can get away with saying things like that.
“Okay, talent issue aside, I’m sorry I can’t churn out a novel in a couple of weeks, but there are hundreds of hours of effort invested in Eyewall and most other books.”
“And what about my agent, and the editors, copy readers, cover designers, and PR and marketing people who work for my publisher? Their efforts are no less for an eBook than for a traditional book.”
I was on a roll. “I’ll grant you,” I said, “that some of the overhead needed for dead-tree tomes is missing–like printing, packaging, distribution, warehousing, and managing returns–but even digital books need formatting and quality control.”
Brother Rick folded under my rhetorical onslaught. But what should he care? He doesn’t have an eReader and I give him copies of all my books for free.
I just wanted to make my point with him: When you purchase an eBook, you’re downloading a heck of a lot more than just a digital file.
-October 17, 2011-
Image: My brother Rick and me in Phoenix a couple of years ago. Apparently, we’re partial to blue shirts.