In this case, I was so bothered by the price that I decided I couldn’t read the book. I figured that my negative reaction would most likely color my reading experience. I didn’t want to deal with the issues, so I chose to avoid it entirely. Admittedly, the fact that Macomber has such a large fan base played a role in my decision to just leave the whole thing alone. And FYI, I absolutely respect the fact that her fans might not find the $16.99 price tag problematic.
Of course, more often than not, I don’t even pay attention to the price of books that I review. I assume that the mass market paperbacks, trade paperbacks and hardcover books that I receive (especially from the NY publishers) are all priced similarly. Ebook pricing, however, is a very different matter and is a big reason why I’m beginning to believe that price is a critical component that may often have an impact on opinions of books whether stated or not.
With ebooks, it isn’t as easy to know what one is getting for the price. It can be challenging to figure how long a work is. Sure, some vendors give a file size, but I have found this useless without an accompanying word count. Not all authors have word counts on their websites either. Often books are touted as full-length or novellas, but according to many sources (Google search on word count), full-length books are over 70,000 words while novellas are listed as between 17,500 and 40,000 words. There is a great deal of wiggle room, especially for novellas. It can be quite challenging to figure out what one is paying for without actually buying it.
As a way around my reviewing conundrum, I try to mention it in a review when I think a book is short. I figure that since I give the price of the book, readers can then make up their own minds. But, I can’t help but ask myself if this is enough. Would it be better for readers if I were to explicitly state that I’m on the fence about whether a book is worth the price being charged?
This gets into a delicate area where reviewers are making judgment calls about a book’s worth – and ultimately, I’m not entirely comfortable making such a call. I can certainly say something like “I wouldn’t pay $4.99 for this 60 page (15,000 word) novella,” but I wouldn’t want such a statement to be taken as “Jennifer doesn’t think this book is worth the price.” Of course, I’m not even sure if this distinction makes sense to anyone other than myself.
In today’s market, price points are tricky. They are all over the place for smaller publishers and self-published works. I’m still struggling with figuring out exactly what I see as unreasonable in terms of price per page or word – especially given that this would be very different on an author by author basis. But, I can’t escape the fact that price plays a critical role in determining how I react to a book – whether I paid for it or not.
Despite this reality, I’m not ready to begin qualifying my reactions to books based on their price in a review. I’m perfectly willing to discuss my though about prices, I’m just not sure that a review is the best place for this discussion. Maybe I will try and make the length and price clearer for readers in my reviews so that they can make their own call. Ultimately, each reader must determine what price point works for them.