The Worth Of Words

So last week I talked about how books are both physical and an experience and it got me thinking about how everyone doesn't want to pay too much for e-books. To their thinking, there is no printing costs involved, no shipping, so the e-book should be practically free. It made me realize that the physical connection is no longer there, just the experience, and somehow that lacks value. Such as:

Say a publisher is offering a chapbook containing a story between 10,000 and 20,000 words. You'd pay about $5 for that, right? I mean, that sounds somewhat reasonable. And depending on the author, you might even pay more. Why? Well because it's something, isn't it? It's substantial. You can hold it in your hands, turn the pages, and then, once you're done, you can pass it along to someone else or let it sit and accumulate dust.

Now what if that same story was available only as an e-book?

You probably wouldn't even consider paying $5 or more, not unless it was by someone like Stephen King, and even then you might have reservations.


Well, I'm not completely sure. This all really boils down to the worth of words. It seems now in the digital age, potential e-book readers are becoming more concerned with file size and word count than the actual work.

For an example:

A writer friend of mine told me a story about how an e-book of his (a 10,000-worder) was priced at 99 cents. Someone purchased it, read it, and reviewed it favorably, even going so far as to recommend it ... but said she thought some readers might be upset having to pay 99 cents for so few words.


Again: she thought some readers might be upset having to pay 99 cents for so few words.

E-book price points are all over the place these days. Some writers offer a 2,000-word story for 99 cents, while others offer 90,000-word novels for the same price. The e-book readers, I think, are becoming confused. Or are they? It's impossible to tell. But remember that little sale I had after Christmas, where I was offering my three e-books for 99 cents each? I decided to keep them at that price for the time being. The truth is they were hardly selling at $1.99. And I don't think $1.99 was too unreasonable, especially for The Silver Ring which, along with the bonus short story, comes in at about 20,000 words. But since I've kept the price at 99 cents sales have been better. For now at least.

So what does this all mean for the worth of words in the digital age? At this point, I don't know. It's more of a guessing game now than ever before. But I am curious to know what others think. How much does the price really matter when purchasing an e-book, and how much is too much ... and how much do you focus on the file size and word count?