Are 99 Cent eBooks Worthwhile for Publishers? What About Readers?

I spent an evening browsing the Internet for articles on the subject of selling eBooks for 99 cents. This seems to be a popular and standard practice now in the self-publishing world, and since I write suggestions for self-publishers it’s definitely worth exploring.

One article stuck out of the pile. It is entitled Why Selling E-books at 99 Cents Destroys Minds by Chad Post.

This particular article caught my attention for a couple of reasons.

For one, Chad discusses how eBooks sometimes make the reader weary due to looking at a bright screen for a very long time. It’s not the same as cozying up with a book printed on lovely neutral-colored pages.

He then makes the point that when consumers have access to mounds of cheap 99 cent eBooks they become a commodity. Eventually the quality of literature that publishers put out suffers because they have to sell more to make a living. Thus the minds of those who read them also suffer due to the lower quality of reading. (Correct me if I’m wrong here Chad).

Chad refers to these 99 cent eBooks as “disposable entertainment,” similar to buying a game app on your cellphone. It is not something you cherish or ever look at again when you’re done reading. It’s partially due to it’s low price (you order a bunch but never get around to reading them all) and sometimes due to the lower quality.

I read another article on the subject that made a point that the type of people who are buying 99 cent eBooks are “disposable” for lack of a better word. They aren’t committed, loyal readers who will come back time and again.

This also brings up another point along the same lines. When someone buys a 99 cent eBook but just looks at it as a disposable piece of entertainment, this lowers the chance that he’ll refer the book to others.

Recently I downloaded a short, cheaply priced eBook on the subject of sales and marketing on my cellphone.

When you write and edit 10 to 12 hours a day it is difficult to find the time and concentration to read other works period, but I committed to reading this one.

About halfway through it my brain shut off. At that halfway mark I hadn’t really learned anything. Most of it was fluff, promotion.

I tried to come back to it the next day and just couldn’t focus.

For over two weeks after that I just could not finish the book. Finally, one night I forced myself to finish the book off. It turned out that in the end I got a few golden nuggets from it, but why did it take me so long to get through this very short eBook?

Could this be due, as I mentioned early, to my low attention being a writer myself? Maybe.

But could it also be due to the fact that I’m reading it on a small electronic device (in this case my smartphone screen)?

Or is that I purchased it so cheaply that I don’t really value its content as much?

Do people buy cheap 99 cent eBooks just for the sake of buying them and feeling as if they got a deal? They should be buying them because they like the author, they’re interested in the subject matter or because it’s well-written.

After all, this particular eBook was far from encyclopaedic. It was written in simple quick prose. If it were a printed book I would have probably finished it in a few hours.

Anyone who has read my own eBook, which I initially priced at $9.95 (and still happy with that decision) knows that the original goal was to help traditional self-publishers who were trying to sell print books. However, the latest update I put up last month includes a bit more on promoting both printed and electronic books. The next automatic update will likely have even more on eBooks now that I’m getting a more complete view on what works and what doesn’t.

So I’m curious… what has been your personal experience with 99 cent eBooks via Kindle, Mobi Readers and such? Add your opinion to the Survey Monkey poll below and a comment below if you have time.

Looking forward to hearing your opinion.


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