Something that most early adopters of the Kindle were eager to see was the impressive price drops that eBooks promised to bring. Compared to the expense of creating, transporting, and retailing a paper book, how could the eBook not make large libraries an inexpensive pursuit? To a certain extent, of course, we did see this for a while. Even now, during the reign of the Agency Model of eBook pricing, there are still impressive discounts to be found. That’s not even taking into consideration the impressive selection of indie authors who have sprung up thanks to the Kindle Store. Something I think many people miss when talking about this topic is that the price rebound, even if it does involve artificial inflation from the “Big 6”, could not succeed without consumer cooperation.
The easy comparison when talking about eBooks is the print book. It’s almost too obvious to be worth stating. Something that people often forget when making that comparison, however, is that comparing and equating are two different things. A Kindle is not meant to be a cheap substitute for print. It provides benefits beyond any potential savings that have a chance to provide value equal to the paper copies for many people. When you buy from the Kindle Store you get instant access to a selection greater than any single physical bookstore could offer in person, faster delivery than any online retailer of paper copies could hope to achieve, portability between all of your Kindle-equipped devices, and a number of other benefits. The question tends to become what you value in your purchase.
For some people, it makes sense to shop for the lowest price available. If the eBook is cheaper, as most people expect it to be, then there is little problem. When the paperback is actually cheaper than the eBook, however, we see problems. It is certainly true that the paper book provides certain benefits that the eBook doesn’t. We’ve all been over them before. It also has any number of shortcomings of its own. I, personally, would rather have an eBook because my mass market paperbacks keep wearing out on me. So far, nothing I’ve bought on the Kindle Store has fallen apart.
I am not trying to make the point that eBook prices are right where they should be. I think everybody is still trying to figure out where things are going to settle with regard to that. The fact is, though, that the eBook as a format brings more to the table than price drops. If there weren’t people who would rather have their collections of bestsellers on a Kindle instead of a bookshelf, sales would drop off on those books to the point where even the most stubborn publishers would have to consider changing things around. Perhaps, rather than talking solely about the sacrifices that are necessary when choosing an eBook over a paper book, it would be more useful to think about what it is that brings you to the eBook as a choice in the first place. There is obviously something the average Kindle Store customer values beyond the savings.