Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Magic E-Book Pricing

I’ve seen some talk recently (you know you’re on the Internet when you’re seeing talk…either that or having some heavy hallucinations) about the soaring prices of magic PDFs. While PDFs once were a cheap alternative to books, they’re rapidly becoming just as costly. As a matter of fact, I was just looking at a PDF priced at fifty dollars – the same price as a quality magic book.

Now, I can see both sides of this. On the one hand books and PDFs are just a means of communicating information; the relative worth of the information isn’t significantly changed by the format in which it’s presented. If it’s something good, something you’ll use, does it really matter how the information is provided?

On the other hand, many people, myself included, hate reading magic instructions off a computer screen and print their PDFs. That means anytime I buy a magic E-book I’m going to be spending extra money on ink and paper to print the thing. Shouldn’t that requirement be reflected in the price? The PDF itself costs nothing in production materials. No paper, no ink, no printers to pay – shouldn’t it therefore be cheaper than a book I can hold in my hands and put on a shelf?

Appropriately pricing magic E-books is a tricky proposition at best. When I put out PK Revolution I felt it was pretty good. I sent it to Banachek and Morgan and they thought it was pretty good. At the time I had The Magic Anarchist site and I thought a smart way to draw traffic would be to under price my E-books. My theory was if you give people a super bargain they’re sure to reciprocate by spreading the word – which would mean more visitors would come to the site and be exposed to the concepts I was trying to impart.

I priced the PDF at 6.50 and it did very well. I sold a lot of copies at Magic Anarchist, a lot at a UK site, and it’s been on the Lybrary bestseller list almost since it arrived there. Still, I think I shot myself in the foot by pricing it so low. Some people were reluctant to buy it because it seemed too cheap; I think it wasn’t taken seriously by some because of its low price. Maybe it’s the old maxim, “You get what you pay for”. Some folks look at something really cheap and just assume its crap. Even though it had almost universally positive reviews, some assumed it was bad because of the price.

Then you have the work factor. Someone writing a PDF invests just as much time and energy as someone writing a paper and ink manuscript. Forget the time put into developing and perfecting the effects themselves – describing how to do the effects in a lucid manner takes a lot of effort. Doesn’t the E-book author deserve to be compensated for his time as much as the book author?

I don’t know, it’s a slippery slope. I guess it all comes down to the quality of information. If it’s good and you can and do use it you’ll probably think it’s worth the cost. But what if it’s bad?

The thing about self-publishing is that it’s reached the point where anyone can do it. Once again, forget about the effects themselves, I’m talking about the quality of the writing. I’ve seen E-books that could’ve been better written by sixth graders – gross grammatical errors and little to no punctuation. And the thing is, unless you’ve bought previous works from the same author, you have little idea going in just what you’re going to get.

I have to conclude that overall PDFs should be cheaper than actual books, at least at this point in time, if for no other reason than it’s a crap shoot going in if the thing’s even going to be readable. There are exceptions, sure, but for me getting an attractive volume in the mail that I can pick up and read at my leisure is always going to trump studying some pages I’ve assembled in a binder.

That’s not to say that there aren’t superlative electronic offerings, as there certainly are – witness Michael Close. I think the concept of downloading a PDF to your desktop and being able to access the information you want quickly and easily is a definite winner and is still in its infant stage. But for now, I believe, magic authors need to keep prices lower rather than higher on electronic materials.

The comments are now on so feel free to add your two cents.


Juan said...

I think it´s way too much to charge for a ebook U$S 50. Can you point which one is that cost that much?

Off course with proper reputation and volume (I mean pages, thats a roof way to measure "effort", but is one since we have no editors to rely on) could be a fair price. But that has to be one unique kind of book.

Jim Coles said...

I don't recall the title, but the book was about working as a magician on cruise ships. Now that's an area of specialized knowledge, so the book may very well be worth the price. Still, it's hard to shell out that much for an electronic document. Or maybe I'm just old fashioned.

Glenn Bishop "Bish The Magish" said...
This comment has been removed by the author.