Move Over, Gutenberg, Now There’s Something E-ie-er

One of the best aspects of the ebook revolution is the pricing down of books. Yes, the book reader itself requires an initial outlay–though ereader programs are available for most technology people already own, at no cost–the books themselves are less expensive, on a whole, than books have been in a long time. For new releases available only in hardcover, even at traditional publishers’ protectionist prices, the ebooks are still significantly cheaper.

While debate rages in the indie book community about appropriate pricing (this discussion between JA Konrath, who supports the $2.99 price point and John Locke, who has done amazingly well at $0.99 illustrates the conversation aptly; Konrath continues this discussion, and discussion of indie publishing in general, with author Barry Eisler in this fascinating piece on the state of the industry), the fact is that a full book priced under five dollars is a steal. Ebooks could have followed the music model, with authors charging $0.99 per chapter, making the cost of an entire ebook as high or higher than the cost of a traditionally-produced hardcover.

This lower pricing makes books far more accessible to everyone. With library funding cut, or lack of access to libraries and bookstores in rural areas, low-priced ebooks are like the invention of the printing press all over again, offering easy, inexpensive literacy.

Of course, the argument arises that with cheapth (thank you Mom, for use of your word) quality falls. On a whole, that’s hard to say; I’ve had quality issues with the traditional publishers’ work for quite some time (I also happen to know of two excellent quirky sci-fi books currently available for the low, low price of $0.99 each, both free of grammatical and inadvertent usage errors, all my usage errors are entirely vertant).

The e-revolution has dramatically cut the costs of book production, no matter how traditional publishers pretend otherwise. Pricing books as though that is not the case smacks of slickery (see? Vertant) and the reading population sees that. Authors haven’t had this type of opportunity to communicate directly with their readers since the days of the wandering bard (ok, I understand the metaphor gets a little muddy, since those tales were spoken, but you get the idea).

The story of the e-revolution has me on the edge of my seat. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

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3 comments

  1. I’m with you. For all the chatter about the good and bad of ebooks, I haven’t seen anybody talking about how cheap books could contribute to literacy. All the moaning about how fewer people are reading, and fewer books are being sold, but not a word about how high prices might have contributed to that. I think the schools deserve much of the blame for declining literacy, but not all of it.

    • Thanks, Catana, I (obviously!) completely agree. I actually have a sneaking suspicion that the internet itself is improving and increasing literacy, as reading and writing are the price of entry, though I have no data to support the theory. But I absolutely think that cost should not be a barrier to knowledge.

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