Posted by: CJ | April 17, 2011

Donation Pricing

I consume media. Depending on my mood, that makes me feel like I should actually pay for it.

But here’s the current pricing scheme, roughly, for a number of technical reference books I want:

  • Print version from Publisher: $45
  • PDF version from Publisher: $35
  • Kindle version from Amazon:$25
  • Print version from Amazon:$20
  • PDF version pirated online:$0 and 5-10 minutes of searching

So I’m left with a dilemma. What I would really like is the PDF version of the document, since that’s much more portable than the print versions, easier to search, and easier to use side by side with my computer stuff. And I’m even willing to pay to get the PDF version. But I’m really not willing to pay $15 more to get the PDF version compared to the print version, and I don’t give a damn what price the publisher thinks the book is for comparison.

The correct reference price in almost all cases is Amazon’s price for a new copy. That’s the price I compare everything else against, and rightly so.

This is one of the fundamental truths of our modern age that I’m not sure publishers have absorbed yet.

OR…perhaps they have, and this is a case of price discrimination. The higher price for buying from the publisher is a penalty for those clueless enough to do it. Similarly, the higher prices for the electronic copies is specifically because of the portability…especially the portability of being able to send them to your friends.

All of which makes it clear to me that perhaps this isn’t publishers being stupid, it’s that our culture is still adapting to paying authors/publishers for content rather than the costs of printing, shipping, and putting the book in a bookstore.

This fits well with a similar fact I’ve been realizing. There are a lot of blogs and webcomics I read and should contribute something to…but I don’t want anymore books littering my apartment. Particularly ones that I’ll never read anyways since they’re online. This is an even clearer situation where donation and/or subscription is a better idea than buying print versions of anything.

But…our culture really isn’t ready for just going donation/subscription only yet…so in the mean time we seem to price discriminate A LOT to make up for it.


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