The Value of Books and eBooks

Although the festive cheer of Christmas is long over, I feel a necessity to revisit it once more. Christmas is a time of cheer, joy and giving and publishers as well booksellers had an extra reason for having a wider and shinier smile. The Guardian reported that, ‘big name titles helped bolster the physical sales to £75m, and the weekly takings of £75.4m was a near 20% increase as compared to the last week.’

Now, all that is very well, and it’s nice to see that print books still occupy a place in the people’s psyche, especially during the festive season. However the queries are many – if that was the case, then why are the yearly sales of print books slowly declining? Why is that Hachette UK saw 250, 000 e-book sales in the season? And why are e-readers still among the most popular gift choices? The final and most important question is, what is the reason for the difference in the perceived value between eBooks and books?

EBooks are popular for a variety of reasons, the major being accessibility, ease, and mobility. At the same time, there is a perceived and clear-cut sense of lack of value. For example, if you ask an ordinary person to select what they value the most out of music, books or videos – they are more likely to choose their music collection. More evidence? Take the fact, that during the Christmas season, print books actually sold more than the eBooks, even though it is probably easy to gift someone an eBook. People still do hold an attachment for the physical object, to some degree.

But why the lack of value for eBooks? A possible reason is the same flexibility, which made eBooks so popular, also corroded the sense of value felt for books. There is no way to display your collection of eBooks or show them off, or any physical occupation to invoke memories of actually buying and spending hard-earned cash.

Publishers and distributors are also to blame for the corrosion in the value of books. In the first place – the most significant indicator to value is the price of the object. And with eBook prices jumping up and down as if they are on a trampoline, there’s little reason to hope that consumers attach serious importance to a product that is so unstable. Secondly, the 20p price tag? That’s right – books, and even bestsellers carry a price of 20p – and it’s pence. Perhaps the publishers are trying to emulate the music industry to some degree, but even a song is more expensive with a tag of £0.99. Ultimately, a 20p price tag is more likely to do more harm than actual good, and it does no favours for the value of the eBook.

When it is all said and done, the publishers need to realise that it’s no more a business-to-business world. It’s a business-to-consumer world now. And when they are able to bridge the widening schism between the price of print books and eBooks, it will go a long way into restoring the value of eBooks and ultimately the future books.

Image courtesy of: Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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