The Price Is Wrong

Seeing Red

The first review is up for Joe Abercrombie’s “Red Country”, to be released later this year. Not that it matters. I don’t need a review to know I want to buy it. I’m a fan of Joe’s, and I really dig his stuff. So, let’s just zip on over to Ye Olde Amazon Shoppe and see what’s what then.

Thirteen bucks? For the ebook version? Pass. And I say that with heavy heart as a true fan of his work. I’m not gonna pay $13 for an ebook no matter who wrote it. I’m a cheap ass, you see.

Week Argument

Brent Weeks started a kerfuffle this week (among people who are, admittedly, swift to kerfuffle) when he sent out an annoyed tweet about a fan complaining about the $13 price on his latest release. He ended with the snarky, “Enjoy your $4 coffee.”

Ahh, the coffee argument. You see it everywhere these days. It’s become almost as ubiquitous as the Starbucks coffee shops the argument refers to, and they’re building those into the bathrooms of other Starbucks at this point. Writers complaining because people won’t spend more on their ebook than on coffee. Software developers mad because people won’t spend more on an app than on coffee. A lot of people are REALLY jealous that Starbucks can get people to pay $4 for coffee, apparently.

The problem with this (overused and stupid) argument is that you’re not comparing the same thing. You’re comparing what people will pay for a physical good vs. what they will pay for a digital one. Like it or not, there is a difference in our feeble little reader minds. You can whine all you want, but you can’t argue with my feeble brain. It’s far too set in its ways. And feeble.

Paper or Bits

The publishing industry has spent decades convincing us all that $25 (on sale) was a bargain for a new hardback book. We weren’t buying the bargain part, but we were buying the books at that price because we had no other choice. It costs a lot of money to print, ship, store and return all those books! Now they want us to believe that the digital book, which can be copied millions and millions of times with no added cost, is worth the same. The music industry tried this one, guys, and it didn’t work out great for them.

Publishers: This new book is $25 because it’s new and is LOADED with lots of extra cardboard and paper! See how pretty?

Me: $25 is too expensive.

Publishers: Yes, but look at all this cardboard! We’ll throw in a dust jacket to make it worth your while. Ok, fine, if you don’t like that, we’ll sell you one in six months that’s only $14 because it has less cardboard and paper. A bargain to be sure!

Me: What if I don’t want to pay $14?

Publishers: Ugh. Fine. We’ll sell you a small one for $6 in another year made of dog shit and recycled toilet paper, and you can read it with the rest of the philistines in a truck stop bathroom or wherever it is you people read.

Me: What about this ebook over here that has no paper or cardboard at all and costs nothing to distribute?

Publishers: Oh, that? That’s $26.

Me: Da’ fuck?

Publishers are deluding themselves if they think most readers will still pay for that shit. Some people will, no doubt, but that’s not going to last forever. I know they’re trying to protect their business model, but I think they’re going to find (like the music guys and Hollywood) that that’s not a good long-term strategy. Once people see they can get something cheaper, even if it is of purported lower quality, they immediately start comparing everything more expensive to that cheaper price, regardless of quality.

Most people I know with ereaders have moved to indie (self-published, whatever, that’s another stupid argument) books, myself chief among them. I still have a few “big name” authors (like Joe or GRRM) that are more expensive, but I find that I am less inclined to pay the price now, even though the ride might be better. I can get a product that’s really good (sometimes better, sometimes worse, but good enough) a lot cheaper than those guys. I’ve dropped most of the authors I used to read in favor of new ones selling new releases under $5.

Epic Fantasy, Super-Sized!

I think McDonald’s makes a good cheeseburger. Not great, but good. Some would argue that they’re not even good, but most of the billion+ people that eat there every year think they’re good enough to chew and swallow at least. I eat there often enough that I can’t haughtily say their food is awful without looking like a total ass, so I admit it, I like McDonald’s.

I know there are much better places to eat. Places where, for $100, I can get an AMAZING meal that is beyond comparison to something as low-class as McDonald’s. And, I do occasionally eat at one of those places. Like an anniversary or something. I think most average folk do the same. If it’s a special occasion, sure, I’ll spring for the good stuff. Otherwise, me and the kids is going to McD.


I see the quality argument almost as often as I see the coffee one. I even agree with it for some things, but almost never with digital goods. Self-published, indie ebooks are shit and of poor quality, which is why they cost so much less, they say. That may be true, and I won’t argue that it’s not in some cases. I’ve had to dig through some crappy books to find some authors that I really like.

The thing is, I found some I really like. And, contrary to what others are saying, they’re putting out some really solid, high-quality stuff. Is it as good as the books put out by big publishers? I don’t know. But I really like them, and I really like reading them. They’re fun and they’re cheap, and I don’t need to apologize for liking them like I just did for eating McDonald’s.

My Apologies to Mr. Abercrombie

I really like Joe’s books. I don’t think for a second that “Red Country” won’t be worth the price of admission. It’s just that Hachette, his publisher, wants a higher price than I’m willing to pay. Oh, and how perfect a name is that? Hachette. Every time I see it next to the price, I can’t help thinking of the hatchet they’re taking to Joe’s nut sack.

It doesn’t matter if your $100 steak is the most amazing piece of meat I’ve ever put in my mouth (heh). I’m not going to pay it. Not when I can get a cheeseburger and a soda for $2 that’s really damn good. Food analogies aside, I just won’t pay that much for a book anymore.

If I have to read a book that costs that much, I’ll just wait for a sale. If they never have a sale, I’ll just read something else and probably miss out on what I know will be a good read. Several authors that used to be on my “must read” list are now on my “read if the price ever drops, if not, skip it” list. That’s ok. I’ve found plenty more that are good and that I really like.

Anyone got a groupon for “Red Country”?