Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Interpreting value

Part II

How do we decide what an item is worth?   A quick easy answer would be that it is worth the price on the tag.   But prices change in response to . . . what?   Consumer demand, or lack of it?   Cheaper methods of production, volume discounts?  Perceived worth is certainly factor.

I recently came across a post from the writer of a 47 page or 16,900 word book of short stories on the Community posting section of Amazon's kindle boards.  She wrote that:

My book has been up on Amazon sites for two weeks now and I have not made a single sale! When and how do the sales happen? Will customers come?

Helpful suggestions were not slow in coming:

Change the cover;  it doesn't look eye-catching.   Change the price to $0.99--that's all people will pay.   

But  at that cover price, the author will receive $.0.35 in royalty.  Is that sufficient?   I paid $0.40 for a large carrot at the vegetable market a few days ago.  A red pepper was double that price.   Why?  If the author sells 30 copies she will be closing in on one hour's work at minimum wage.   Will that be adequate compensation?

Suggestions are made by others that effort be expended to ensure grammar and spelling are impeccable.   That apparently increases value, but to what?  Books are not unique, of course, in having flexible prices.   In my youth I worked briefly for a ladies clothing store.  Clothing was marked up 100% or more, for example, from $50. to $100.   That allowed room for discounting but still allowed a profit.    Would that work with books?

Perceived scarcity increases desirability, and thereby price.   E-books are in unlimited supply generally and the total number of books, e-book or otherwise, has greatly increased in the past few years.   

It's enough to make one long for the non-consumer era.   But then we'd have to figure out values by barter.  The medieval monks who lived here built their own homes from the island's stones and caught their own food.   They didn't have much but everything was priceless.


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