Day 134 – Will Books Become a Luxury Item?

One look at the KindleBoards and there is little doubt that ebooks are taking off. The reasons for that are likely varied: they’re a novelty item, they’re easily purchased (from the reader point of view), easily disseminated (from a writer/publisher point of view), and they are extremely cheap to produce compared to books.

Although ebooks are relatively new, there is a historical parallel: chapbooks. Chapbooks were small books that were popular with the masses for about 300 years ending in the mid-1800s (when they were usurped by newspapers – cue irony). They were sold by peddlers or street vendors, who typically travelled throughout the cities and countryside and sold to the “common” people. As a result, chapbooks were the main medium for popular culture and mass media.

But the biggest reason for their popularity was that they were cheap. Cheap to make, cheap to buy. Sound familiar?

Fast-forward 150 years, and we may be entering the same situation. Of course the main difference is that today we have several types of mass media (Internet, TV, newspapers and magazines, etc.) so ebooks are in a bit of a different boat. But the similarities are still apparent.

I’ve already compared ebooks vs. real books here, so I won’t go over that again. In my mind, by far the biggest motivating factor is price (I haven’t heard anyone say they actually prefer an ereader to a real book from purely a reading experience… even the young’uns). If ebooks do finally take over, either there will be a huge leap in the technology, or it will be on price.

If the latter, then suddenly real books become luxury items.

Whether you consider that to be a good thing or bad I suppose is a matter of personal preference (though I suspect I know how most of the readers here will feel…)

But that is, I believe, the inevitable course of things.

The good news I think is that printing costs for smaller runs has dropped significantly, so the huge cost savings you got from large runs isn’t an issue like it was 20 or even 10 years ago, so fewer books won’t mean higher per-book costs. However, it will come at quite a premium vs. the Kindle version. The average self-published ebook seems to be selling from $0.99 to $5.99, with $2.99 seemingly the most popular price point.

Had some good progress today on my own novel today. I re-read what I wrote yesterday, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’ve added a new scene that takes place before where I started the first draft, which I finished today. Tomorrow I’m back in charted waters – I’m just looking for ways to navigate them better.

Until then,

~Graham

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