A recent meme in publishing is that some readers are exhibiting a sense of “entitlement” about buying ebooks. I’d like to humbly offer myself as Exhibit A. It is true: I feel entitled to buy books. I insist upon it, actually*.
Seriously, is it ever a good idea to disparage your customers? To treat them like they are annoyances? To suggest that they simply don’t understand how things work, when, really, why should they? Especially when, in at least one instance, the publishers were the ones who changed (or attempted to change) the rules?
So, as a person who happily pays for books, this is what I feel entitled to: the book in the format I prefer at the time my awareness in said book is sufficient that I go to make the purchase at the price I deem reasonable based on my extensive experience as a book consumer.
The truth is, I don’t care about ebook windowing (except that it’s, as far as I know, a relatively new idea, and to take readers to task for expecting simultaneous releases is a bit much, no?). I don’t care about ebook pricing games. I don’t even care how long it took the author to write the book, the amount of research that went into it, and that it was handwritten in blue ink on yellow paper. None of these things are indicators of whether or not I’m going to have an awesome reading experience.
Basically, a publisher has one chance to get my money. If the marketing is done right, my awareness of a book is raised and my interest is piqued. Depending on the book — some I want as print, some (most) I want as digital — I will then attempt a purchase. If the book is not available, based on my previous behavior, I will either buy something else or find myself distracted by other bright and shiny things. The book that brought me to the store will never be purchased, barring a secondary marketing campaign coupled with renewed want.
Here’s why. There are way more books that I want than there are books that I need. If I stopped buying books for five years, chances are I still won’t finish all the books I already own that I haven’t read. Ten years? Maybe. You probably don’t want to challenge me on that.
Today’s wanted book becomes tomorrow’s forgotten book.
I am going to be frank about pricing. My household has purchased very expensive ebooks — a practice that lead me to present on the $75 ebook at Digital Book World — and most have been worth the price paid. We’ve had a digital book subscription plan for many years, sometimes paying money for an account that isn’t accessed for months. The value assessment of books comes from the consumer, not the publisher.
My experience with well-done ebooks, those books I paid higher prices for, and the ebooks I’ve purchased from major publishers has forced me to seriously consider price when it comes to buying ebooks. I recently wrote about the need to get the basics right. Given my experiences to date, it will take some serious effort on the part of these major publishers to regain my trust in their ebook products.
When prices go above $10, I take fewer chances on books. When prices go above $10, I refuse to pay for bad experience that cheapens the story. When prices go above $10, I weigh the fact that I could get two books for approximately the price of one. Given that I am a fast and constant reader, that final point is not dismissed lightly.
So yeah, I have a sense of entitlement when it comes to purchasing books. Availability, format, price. Where I come from this type of entitlement goes by another name: customer service.
* – Given worries about piracy, I think my stance should be welcome.