Saturday, October 6, 2012
Comparing the Price of an E-book to the Price of a Cup of Coffee?
I've seen people compare the price of an e-book to the price of a cup of coffee more than once in the past, and I recently saw it pop up again in a few places. It would be an interesting concept...that is if you like comparing apples with those proverbial oranges.
Now I'll be the first to admit that some e-book prices are over the top and I have passed on more than a few e-books I've wanted to read because I thought they were too expensive. I've posted about this several times. I have, I think at this time, four or five .99 e-books of my own out because I wanted to give readers a break. So I'm not disagreeing about the cost of e-books in some/many cases. On the other hand, I just spent over $16.00 for J.K. Rowling's newest e-book, "The Casual Vacancy." So while I have lines drawn, I'm willing to cross those lines if I really want to read something badly enough.
In this article I read that some people equate e-books with coffee. From what I'm getting they are comparing e-books and coffee as luxury items. Maybe entertainment? I'm not sure about that because it's never been clear in any of these articles I've read.
This is coming from a non-coffee drinker, but people buy Starbucks because they know what it’s going to be like. It will meet their expectations, and while it’s an experience that won’t change their lives it will be the same every time. People know that each cup of coffee will be exactly like the last. And if it’s not, Starbucks will remake it until the customer is satisfied. Would you make that same guarantee with your ebook?
That sounds really great on the surface, but I get tired of reading only surface pieces all over the Internet and once in a while I like to dig a little deeper.
This is off topic a little, but I want to add it for those who don't know about how retail works. I owned an art gallery for 10 years in New Hope. As a small ticket item in the gallery, I started selling small bags of gourmet coffee back when the gourmet coffee craze had just begun in the 90's. At the time, I would order twenty pound bags of coffee beans from the coffee company and pay roughly twenty-five to thirty dollars a bag wholesale. Then I would divide the loose coffee beans up in small brown bags with little bows and awesome gold stickers and sell them at six dollars each for a half a pound. You can do that math to see how much of a profit I made selling coffee. And I was priced lower than most people at the time. I eventually stopped selling the coffee after the first two years because large corporate chains like Starbucks started taking over the smaller markets and gourmet coffee became common to everyone. I never sold coffee by the cup because I would have had to get a different license to do that legally, and, I made more money with higher end items. But if I had bothered to sell by the cup the retail mark up would have been even higher.
This retail mark up obviously doesn't bother most people who buy coffee by the cup, so that's not my point in this post. My main point is that I personally find it hard to compare an e-book with an addictive legal substance like coffee that's no different from alcohol, nicotine, or OTC pain killers. There's even a detox center for those who are addicted to caffeine just like there are detox centers for alcoholics and drug addicts. I'll admit that it's a milder form of addiction and not as serious as other addictions (I think). But caffeine is still an addictive drug for most people, and for some it is serious. Last I heard there's no detox for people who can't stop reading e-books. Please someone, tell me if there is. Maybe there should be in some cases ($16.00 was way too much for me to pay for an e-book), but as of now there isn't.
Caffeine is easily the most popular drug in the world. We consume caffeine in coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, some soft drinks, and some drugs. The source of caffeine is the coffee bean, tea leaf, kola nut and cacao pod. Pure caffeine is odorless and has a bitter taste.
I stopped drinking regular coffee about ten years ago, and I know how hard it was to kick the addiction. I was miserable for weeks. I still crave it once in a while.
And I didn't even think of coffee as a luxury item. I could understand comparing a cup of coffee as a luxury item to a good martini. You get drug induced benefits either way. I can understand comparing an e-book as a luxury item to a music on iTunes or some other form of entertainment. But comparing a cup of coffee to an e-book passes me by simply because the two items are completely unrelated. Imagine how it would sound if I started to compare martinis to e-books.
As a side note, spending money on e-books could be compared to spending money on movies. They are both forms of entertainment. But e-books can be returned. Try going to the movies and asking for your money back after a half hour of watching a movie you hate. Let me know how that works out for you.
But above all, when I read an e-book, I'm going to have that e-book with me, I hope, for the rest of my life. It's going to be stored in my brain forever whether I liked it or not. I usually love the e-books I've read because I vet them beforehand. And I have rarely read the first five pages of any book without knowing ahead of time whether I would like it or not. With a cup of coffee you consume it and pee it out an hour later.
So while I do agree that e-books are over-priced in some/many cases, and I do agree that sometimes we are all disappointed in an e-book we've read, I don't buy into this coffee/e-book comparison...at least not unless we're talking about an addictive personality who can't live without getting a coffee fix. It just doesn't make sense to me. And like wise, experienced Judge Judy says, if it doesn't make sense it's most likely not true.