In my previous post, I wrote about how eBooks are simply better than printed books. You may not agree with me, of course, but then you would simply be wrong.
I have several pet peeves. A major one is when people complain that an eBook costs the same, or even more, than the same book in a printed format. There's this big expectation, nay, demand, that eBooks should be cheaper than printed books. Way cheaper.
And, frankly, I don't understand this expectation. I understand the desire. I'd like for the things I want to buy to be cheaper, too. But I don't expect cheaper eBooks.
Why? Well, two reasons. One is that I don't think that the savings is really all that great.
From what I've read, the major costs are in the production of the content, rather than the physical manifestation of that content. In other words, paying the author to write it, paying the editor to edit it, paying the designer to design it, and paying the publicist to publicize it.
Yeah, printing books costs time and money, but so does hosting large-scale redundant computer systems. So does bandwidth.
And let us not forget the spectre of piracy. I have no idea how many book sales are lost due to the ease of copying eBooks. But, certainly, there must be some loss.
So, I think expecting some big discount due to the elimination of printing costs is unreasonable, based on the amount of actual savings. But that's not the real reason. Here's the real reason:
Let that soak in a second. Now, true, prices are linked to costs in that if you drop your prices below your cost, you're gong to lose money. But what I'm talking about is the other side of the coin.
People seem to think that if a manufacturer of something is able to cut their costs, then they should also cut their prices to match. Well, they certainly can, if they think it'll gain them a competitive advantage.
But buyers shouldn't expect a price cut based on lessened costs. Price is based on what the market will bear, not on what it costs to make something plus some pre-determined profit margin.
There's always this idea that sellers
should lower prices when their costs go down. Why? If I'm clever enough to develop a better product at a lower cost, why shouldn't I pocket that extra cash? Why should I have to pass it on?
Believe me, I'm no Libertarian. But I don't understand why there's this automatic reaction that a decrease in costs must be passed on to customers.
Another realm in which this expectation arises is with Apple computers. You'll always find folks complaining about Apple's large profit margin. It's usually tied in with some hardware cost comparison with PC components. But, dammit, Apple melds Unix with a darn nice UI and packages it up in slick looking hardware. That whole package is worth more that the cost of the parts lumped together. There's nothing wrong with Apple charging a premium for that value, regardless of their underlying costs. And there's nothing wrong with people choosing to pay a premium for that value, either.
Of course, the funny thing in all this is that if everyone has the expectation of lower prices for eBooks, then that does indeed become what the market can bear. But that's different than having an a priori expectation of such a price drop.
I don't feel bad for one damn minute when I pay the same price for an eBook. Sure, I would like it cheaper. I would like the printed book cheaper, too. There's no particular reason I should expect the eBook to be cheaper.
Meanwhile, Scalzi talks about why he likes his MacBook Air: