9 99 Boycott

Imagine my surprise when I visited Amazon’s page for the Kindle edition of Pop Apocalypse and saw that it had been marked with a tag called “9 99 boycott.” I initially thought that an uprising of angry readers had for reasons inscrutable to me decided to boycott my book — what a great and unexpected pleasure that would be!

But no. A bit of quick Web research (the only kind I seem to do anymore) turned up an explanation:

A loosely organized group of 250 customers has been labeling books in the Kindle Store with the tag “9 99 Boycott” due to its belief that the e-books should cost no more than $10. It’s a reasonable argument when you consider that most paperback books cost about $10 and are much more versatile than their e-book counterparts.

I am a high-volume consumer of books, so I obviously support cheaper electronic books. Indeed, if Kindle ebooks were cheaper the economics of my decision whether or not to buy a Kindle would change: that is, I’d buy one now rather than do what I’ve been doing, waiting till a cheaper better version arrives or some competitor creates an even better ebook reader.

But you’ve got to wonder why someone who doesn’t want to pay $9.99 per Kindle book would bother buying a Kindle in the first place. The clear alternative to Kindle texts is… book-based texts.

Why isn’t there a movement to tag physical books as overpriced? I suspect it has something to do with our strange intuitions about electronic content. If we pay $20 for a book, we are impressed by the presence of the book. We think the cost must be justified, because it took some effort on our part to procure the book. When we acquire an electronic text instantly we’re lulled into believing that the costs can’t possibly be justified. Getting this “nonmaterial” artifact was easy as pie1, so the associated costs must be trivial, ergo consumer boycott.


1. Though, really, how easy is pie?