This week’s Guardian article about the death of books, writing and writers was called Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive? I did find myself wondering, for just a moment, if The Guardian is mounting its own crusade to see us all off – they have one of these articles nearly every week.
Anyway, I sneaked a look at the words and was dragged into an article full of doom and gloom.
I realise this kind of article is intended to provoke a reaction and get people talking (otherwise what’s the point, right?) but there’s one thing that stood out for me. ‘The Free Revolution’ as the author of the article calls it. And you know, it got me thinking, because there’s something to this.
More and more, I think, people expect something for nothing. As if the world owes them something. It’s everywhere. And this is particularly true for artistic pursuits – books, music, films, games. It feels as if there are consumers of these things who believe they should be free. Well, here’s what I say to that. ‘Bollocks’. If you want to read a book, listen to music or watch a film that someone’s spent a long time over, working hard to create, then you should pay a fair price for it.
Which brings me to ebooks.
I don’t own a kindle, but I do own an iPad. I don’t, however, use it as a reading device, so I’m not really all that knowledgable about ebooks and how easy (or not) it is to pirate them. However, the article in The Guardian talks about ebooks, so it prompted me to check out the Kindle store to see what ebooks are selling and what kind of price they go for. I noticed that 99p seems to be pretty common; even 49p.
49p? Is that all it’s worth? That’s less than the price of a chocolate bar that’s mass produced and eaten in seconds. Cheaper than a pint that’s drunk down and pissed out and forgotten. Cheaper than a pack of paperclips or post-it notes. What’s going on? This is a book we’re talking about here. Something unique that someone has created from nothing. It’s designed to bring pleasure, entertainment, shock, excitement, nostalgia, horror, fear, tears, happiness, comfort, disgust, arousal – it’s made to take you somewhere you’ve never been, show you things you’ll never see . . .
So perhaps someone can enlighten me about how this works. Maybe the 49p book is being sold as a loss leader? Is it thin? Is it badly written? Is this all the author/publisher thinks it’s worth? What?
My books on kindle sell for around £4.99 which seems fair enough to me. I spend a long time working on a book. I craft it very carefully. I check and recheck; read and reread to make sure it’s the best I can make it. My agent reads and checks. I re-edit. My editor edits. I re-edit. It’s copy edited. I re-edit. It’s proof-read. I re-edit. A graphic artist designs a cover . . . it’s time consuming, it’s careful work and it’s worth more than 49p? Surely?