The Cost of Great Things and The Importance of Libraries

I had time to listen to an economics podcast while boiling my head in battery acid, because I appreciate pain at many levels.

The podcast was interesting though. There’s conversation in there about the cost of entertainment, with the interviewee claiming he feels best (I paraphrase) at the $1-2/hr entertainment level. It’s no surprise this resonates with those who choose reading for leisure. If I open Tyche’s Flight, my Kindle tells me there’s about 7 hours left to go; at USD$3.99, that’s $0.57 an hour. The sequels rock out to $0.71/hour because I’m a price-gouging hack; that’s still pretty decent.

The books are a reasonable length (although tend to not feel long, being “page turners” in the parlance of my people). Some people will get more or less value here due to consumption speed. My wife has a reading rate I find truly humbling, so she’ll perhaps pay a little more per hour; some a little less.

But could it be better? I’ve talked about libraries before, which provide effectively unlimited reading for free, assuming ‘free’ in your context means, “Already paid for by my taxes, thanks very much Mr. G-Man.” I’m a big fan of libraries: I’ve fond memories of for-me-at-the-time unaffordable books relative to my income and thus living in my local book haven. I’ve tried to pay it forward by making a chunk of my stuff available to libraries across the planet.

One thing I’m not keen on is selling things cheaper. Traditional publishing houses don’t do this, because they’re entirely uninterested in clients who only want free books, or dollar reads, and as a result (despite what the indie world might say) business is booming. Competition is pretty steep to give things away these days, and authors will never work harder for less pay than pricing for $0 or $0.99. Traditionally-published book prices are trending upward, which isn’t surprising because inflation is real, but indie seems to be in love with the idea of racing to the bottom. An author I respect tremendously recently suggested the $0.99 boxed set trend should stop, because our work is good, and worthy of at least $2.99 (four cents per entertainment hour).

I’m proud of my work; while plenty of people will tell you I’m a hack, there are more who will talk about the quality of my characters, the gift I have with action scenes, the humour, or how Night’s End made them cry. I’ve realized over time that a thing I do really well is write Richard Parry books, which are action stories with heart. There’s only one place you can get a Richard Parry story, and if you like those then maybe you’ll consider spending $0.51-$0.71/hr.

I think this price is fair and reasonable, which coincidentally is not $0.99, but is also not $9.99, despite the market clearly supporting that price point and higher. And because I also know there are people genuinely hard up for cash, my stuff’s at libraries. If you’re out of money, visit your local book ‘hood, and enjoy limitless imaginary worlds for the cost of carrying a tiny slip of paper with, “Library Card,” written on the top. You can read Richard Parry stories there, and also many others from masters greater than me, because traditional publishing houses also have your back.

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