The eBooks are Too Damn Expensive!

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

I got an iPad last week, and I intend to use it primarily as a book reader. Naturally I wanted to download a book and try it out, so I bought Matt Yglesias’s new Kindle single, The Rent is Too Damn High. So far, I’m very pleased with the book-reading abilities of the iPad1, but I wonder if publishers are setting too high a price for these miniature volumes? Matt’s book is $3.99, and in one sense that’s cheap. It’s about the price of a magazine, and has a roughly similar amount of content. On the other hand, you could also say it’s more similar to a single magazine article — a long one, granted — and people aren’t generally willing to pay four bucks for one article.

Unless you’re a big name, or you happen to generate some serious buzz, it seems as if these kinds of books might do better as impulse buys. Maybe 99 cents, or $1.99. On the other hand, the real investment here is time more than money, and for anyone willing to spend three or four hours reading something like this, three or four dollars shouldn’t be much of a hurdle.

I guess I’m not sure. Maybe all I really wanted was a chance to write the headline for this post. But I’m curious to get some feedback. Has price ever deterred you from downloading any Kindle singles? Or is this a non-issue?

1My big problem with the original Kindle was that it sucked for nonfiction books. Tables, charts, and images of all sorts rendered so badly as to be nearly illegible. But the Kindle app for the iPad appears to have solved this problem. My test case was A Farewell to Alms, and although some of the images were surprisingly low-res, they were all readable. And the tables were all readable too: columns actually lined up properly and pages are big enough to have enough to room show the entire thing. So far, so good.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend