07/21/2011 01:57 pm ET Updated Sep 20, 2011

The (Low) Cost of Reading

Books are my life. Without reading, I'd be lost. Perhaps that's why I'm baffled about the rampant indignation about the price of e-books. Are readers being forced at gunpoint to buy these books? Is there a cabal I haven't heard about? Are publishers from Little Brown to Graywolf Press in cahoots to rob readers?

According to the NYT, "Over the last year, the most voracious readers of e-books have shown a reflexive hostility to prices higher than the $9.99 set by and other online retailers for popular titles." Authors dread the not-uncommon one-star reviews given by those who've never read a page of the title they're slamming, reviews based solely on the fact that they consider the price too high. Others dread sniping from authors who choose to publish their own work -- authors who rather than talking about the worth of the read they offer, denigrate the price of books offered by established publishers.

Ah, can't we all just get along?

I'm weary of hearing e-books are too expensive, that their value should be based on no more than the barest bones. Some disparage money going to authors (is there any more intrinsic part of a book than the creator? Unlike cooks, designers, engineers, should we work for free?) with remarks made by The Cheapskate on CNET: "Now, I understand books cost money. There's editing, publishing, and distribution. Paper, ink, trucks, gasoline. Storage, shipping, shelf space, sales staff. And the countless people involved in all those transactions. E-books, on the other hand, consume zero trees. They weigh nothing, occupy no physical space, and don't get shipped in the traditional sense. Middlemen are few and far between. So you're left with, what, editing costs and the pittance you pay the authors?"

The average price of a restaurant meal in the United States is roughly $10 per person. The cost of individual meals range from $5.00 to $25.00 per person. My guess is the average person eats a meal in less than an hour and spends far longer reading any given book. (The average cost of a meal at a NYC restaurant is 41.76 per person.)

continued at Beyond The Margins