This one may be a hard sell: As successful as the Kindle is, the decision of publishers to price a boatload of books above their hardcover versions has brought up the Amazon customer base in arms. Is there more value in an eBook than in a hardcover? It may come down to perception and our perception is changing.Amazon’s Wi-Fi Kindle
Not too long ago, digital content was considered to be like shareware in nature, or even freeware. When Napster was around, the argument for the availability of free music was that it was of lower quality than what you would buy on a CD and therefore it did not have as much value. Today, you pay about a dollar or more for a song and we understand that there is value in a digital song, as opposed to the CD.
It loads right onto your PC and iPod, which is, conceivably, its final destination. A CD may still play in a CD player in your home or car, but those devices are on their way out. Soon, there will be no value in a CD anymore. An optical disc will be inconvenient to use, which increases the value of a digital download. Book publishers seem to be playing the same card, even more aggressively, and it is likely they will get away with it, as outrageous as it may sound right now.
There are new reports that highlight expensive eBooks, a trend that is spearheaded by Ken Follet’s Fall of Giants, which will cost you $20 as a download. Wait? $20?
Yes, twenty American dollars. The book carries lots of tags on Amazon.com – and not really positive ones. Publisher price rip-off. Outrageous Kindle Price. No sale. Boycott. You can read them here. There are currently 2387 books tagged with “outrageous Kindle price” alone. Many Kindle books go for $15, some for $13 and we already know that the general best sellers will cost you at least $10. I am relatively new to the Kindle community, but I have become an avid ebook reader within a short period of time and I somehow accepted the $10 Kindle books, even if I believe that this is a bit much for a downloaded version. At least that is my perception.
The general idea here is that a physical product has more value than a digital product. But what if we learn that the exact opposite is the case? What if you can have on your MP3 player thousands of songs instead of perhaps 12 on a CD player? What if your Kindle book fits on an electronic device that can hold your entire library? If it is more convenient for you to bring all your books along with you wherever you go and if the Kindle is the final destination of your book, it may create an entirely different value proposition and perception.
The Kindle book may even go further than a digital song. You can still burn your music on a CD, if you want to, but printing a Kindle book is not something we could or even want to do. Conceivably, the Kindle is becoming your library and Amazon as well as publishers have a lot of leverage. Amazon reported that it is already selling more Kindle books than hardcovers. It may be time to see if we are willing to pay more for ebooks as well.
It is a wind of change. It is what we ask for when we adopt devices such as the Kindle. It is up to the consumer to change that again by rejecting such devices. But I doubt that will happen.
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Note: A previous version of this article stated that Amazon priced its Kindle books above hardcover price. This is incorrect. Publishers set the price on Kindle books. We apologize for this error.