Readers' Corner: Is buying a book like buying a house?



Suppose you have reached the point in life where you are able to shop for your first home. You and your significant other have worked hard, established good credit, squirreled away enough for a down payment.  You have run the numbers and calculated that you can afford something priced at $165,000, the approximate median price for homes in the South and Midwest regions of the United States.

So, you hop in the car with some real estate ads in hand and drive to a neighborhood that has a nice home in that price range. You do a drive-by.  It is a brick three-bedroom, two bath structure with mature trees, decent landscaping, well-maintained yard. The roof looks sound.  It has a wooden privacy fence surrounding an ample back yard.  You circle the ad in the paper and decide to drive around the neighborhood to check things out.

On the next block, you come on a similar house with a “for sale by owner” sign in the front yard.  A man in his fifties is pulling weeds in the flower bed.  He sees you and looks up.

“Sir, do you know how much they want for this place?  We don’t see it in the paper,” you say.

He gets up, wipes his hands and comes next to the car.

“I’m the owner,” he says.  “It’s listed at $225,000.”

You and your significant other look at the house again.  You do a  mental comparison with the the other house that was much cheaper.

Your wife speaks up.  “We just saw a house a lot like yours on the next block priced at $165,000.  Why is yours so much higher?”

The owner takes it in stride.

“Mine has hard wood floors and a wood-burning fireplace.”

Your wife looks at the ad for the other house. “So does the other one,” she says.

The owner is losing patience.  “I spent a lot of money on fixtures, crown molding and appliances,” he says.  “With what I have in the place, I need $225,000 to come out ahead.”

He turns his back, walks to the flower bed and resumes his weed-pulling.

Which house do you buy?

Is this the way we shop for books?

I don’t think so.  When it comes to book shopping, we often forget to comparison shop and pay an inflated asking price as if that was our only option.

In the digital book world today, many books are over-priced.

There are several reasons for it.

1. The owner (publisher) hopes you will equate the price of his book with its value.  In other words, even if it is of the same quality as the book next to it, if it is priced 50% higher, he hopes the reader will believe there must be some hidden value to it.

2. The owner (publisher) has too much in the book to sell it for what it is really worth.  He wants to pass his overhead along to the buyer.  He likes his corner office with a view.

3.  The owner (publisher) wants to protect his paper book sales.  If he puts a price on the digital book version that is in line with his actual costs, people will forsake the hardback version, and he will lose his cash cow.

4. The owner (publisher) thinks book buyers are stupid.

When it comes time to search for a good book, do you comparison shop?   There are tons of good books out there for less than ten dollars.  Why would anyone want to pay more than he has to for a quality read?


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