Paying for Ebooks

March 14, 2009

When I mentioned to a friend of mine that I read ebooks almost exclusively these days, she was kind of surprised by the admission. But since she knows that my taste in literature usually runs towards the classics, she figured I just grabbed my texts from Project Gutenberg for free.

While that’s certainly the case for much of the stuff I read, I also mentioned that I actually pay for newer publications from a few websites that specialize in electronic books. At that point, my friend shook her head and said that I was essentially wasting my money because I wasn’t getting anything “tangible” in return.

But I disagree. Most of the ebooks I buy cost anywhere from $5-$14, depending on a variety of factors. Let’s take the middle ground and say that the average amount I pay is $9.50. To me, that’s the same as I would pay for a movie ticket at the large cineplex in my neighborhood.

Now think about it. What do you get when you pay for a movie ticket? You get an experience, two hours of (hopefully) enjoyable entertainment. But when you walk out of the theater at the end of the film, you’ve got nothing “tangible” to show for your money. That’s exactly the same as buying an ebook. You get a few hours of entertainment, plus the experience of reading it. That’s all — and I think that’s fair.

Would I rather spend my money on tangible goods like wii accessories or a new t-shirt? Sure, in some cases. And when the mood strikes me, I do indeed go shopping for “real” items instead of electronic books. But when I do buy ebooks, I don’t feel I’m getting ripped off or anything like that. I wouldn’t pay $27.50 for an electronic copy of a new release like I would for the hardcover edition, but I don’t mind paying a third of that price for the ebook version.

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