Getting Your Money’s Worth: The Conundrum of the E-Book.

I’m still slogging my way through Kill Shot, but as it’s sadly neither as pretentious as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, nor as cliched and hackneyed as Home Front, I’m a little too light on the hilarious quotes to do a mid-book update.

With that said, I do have a hilarious mid-book update regarding the readers and reviewers of Vince Flynn’s new “thriller.”

Ineke K. Mitchell “fast reader” from Canton, CT writes:

Having read all of his books I was eagerly awaiting this one. I was pretty disappointed for a variety of reasons and I was irritated that at 71% it ended — a very short story. I expected more and likely will not as eagerly await the next one. So many authors end up writing fast and furious to publish numerous books and quality gooes downhill proportionally. Vince you’ve lost a fan.

Swede1942 concurs:

I was so excited to get the next Vince Flynn “Mitch Rapp” book! Sat down and got into it! Then . . . WHAM . . . hit the ending . . . at 70% of the book and the rest was ads for more of his books. WHAT’s WITH THAT? I’m totally bummed and feel I got took for half a story at a big price. Definitely NOT worth the money. Not sure I’ll purchase any more if this is the way a faithful reader is treated. Don’t bother to put your hard earned cash on this one.

And Thomas J. Chohany adds:

enjoyed the novel but did not enjoy how it ended with 70% still left and that time was spent plugging excerpts from other novels – felt like a rip off

What’s interesting is the fact that none of the readers who reviewed the physical novel had any issues with the length — which is roughly 400 pages.

Instead, it seems as though people feel like they’ve been “ripped off” because the additional content, fairly common in pulpy series like this one,  was advertised as part of the book’s “percentage.” In some fairness to Thomas, Swede and fast reader, most e-books are formatted to only have the novel itself count as part of the percentage, while any publisher’s extras are filed at the end but not included in the count.

With that said, I think that these reactions are interesting as they seem to belie an inherent distrust in the “value” of electronic books — that because they are intangible, they are somehow of lesser value than a traditional paper-and-binding book. In some ways, that’s fair — you’re not paying for the printing costs, you aren’t paying for the bookshelf space at Chapters, you aren’t paying for the hourly wage of the bored Chapters employees. What likely contributes to this feeling of outrage is that Amazon, an exclusively online company anyway, has chosen to advertise what was a $27.99 hardcover novel for the online price of $15.25, while the ebook remains at a somewhat higher price of $17.54 — easily the most expensive e-book I’ve ever purchased. So maybe people are mad that they paid an extra $2.00 for the electronic copy, when on average most e-books are about 30% less than their tangible counterparts, sale or no sale.

But people aren’t talking about the cost difference, they’re talking about the “value” of a 400 page novel that happens to include previews or excerpts from old books in the series. In a sense, they’re angry that they got more for their money just because they feel tricked by the formatting of the e-book itself.

Many are arguing that the book ends abruptly or seems more like a short story than a novel. I’m at about the 75% mark (if these reviews are accurate), and I can say that while it’s awfully talk-heavy for a spy thriller, I don’t think it can be called a shorter-than-average novel, especially when the last book in the series, American Assassin, was only 48 pages longer.

I don’t think that this raises questions about the longevity of e-books. E-books are here to stay, they are the next step in publishing and while there will always be printed-book purists, the majority of people will have switched to an e-reader in the next 10-20 years. But I do think that before that happens, the publishing industry will very much have to figure out ways to make the electronic copy more valuable or more worthwhile, as this is a perfect example of the way that people are still trying to find fault and injustice in this new medium and age of reading.

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2 thoughts on “Getting Your Money’s Worth: The Conundrum of the E-Book.

  1. Pingback: Book News: The Outsiders is Entering the Digital Age « Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

  2. Pingback: Vince Flynn’s Kill Shot: The Mediocre Spy Thriller that Frustrated a Nation « Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

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