Sunita has a great post up over at Dear Author about the hidden costs of the $0.99 ebook. I haven’t commented, primarily because I’m not a consumer of $0.99 or free ebooks for the most part, but also because I haven’t worked out my own opinion about the value/risk relationship and social “responsibility” of readers to the reading/writing/publishing ecosystem. There is a great conversation going on about the value of the $0.99 ebook (or the free book) as a loss leader and social value/risk of cheap ebooks.
At least one commenter (to whom I will link if I can find her again in the 100+ comment thread) has mentioned excessive pricing as a counterpoint to the cheap ebooks. What is a reasonable price for a novella? In the last couple of weeks, two of my favorite authors have released ebook shorts of approximately 20 and 35 pages each, priced at $2.99. While I respect their desire to make a living writing and their autonomy in setting prices for their self-published work, that price seems excessive. Taking the shorter ebook into consideration, at least 2 of the pages will be “wasted” with author bio and copyright information, leaving a story of perhaps 18 pages costing $3. That works out to ~$0.17 per page: I can think of very few paper books I’m willing to pay that price for — maybe the annotated edition of Emma? But that is a beautiful object, while this is a very short story that I don’t even own, after all — I just have a license to it, I can’t resell it or share it or swap it legally.
After being burned by a similarly ridiculous price by the same author earlier this year, I’m reluctant to pay that price for an even shorter (and older, reworked) piece now. While a lot of readers love this author, he’s edging off my auto-buy list after a few too many overpriced shorts.