The price of content

I was walking to the train station this morning and passed a memorabilia shop (still closed) that is a staple in our town. In the shop window, there was a sign (as there has been for nine months) offering an autographed copy of a Michael Jackson album for $1,100.

Later in the day, Macmillan CEO John Sargeant characterized the recent Amazon dispute as a struggle to “preserve” a higher price for content. As I read the reports, I thought again about this autographed album.

I suppose the shop owner can say he is “preserving” the price of Jackson memorabilia, but if no one has bought the signed album in nine months, it is hard to imagine that $1,100 is “the” price.

It sometimes seems to me that publishers would rather sell 100 ebooks at $14 ($1,400) than 500 ebooks at $9 ($4,500). They blame Amazon for pricing to maximize revenue on a good with (for publishers) virtually no marginal cost. In testing prices, Amazon is the enemy.

Publishers who still want to maximize price (rather than revenue) can at least ask what readers value. If they did, we’d be talking about things like proprietary formats, closed systems, an inability to share books and restrictions on digital rights, all of which potentially suppress price.

There are many reasons to fear Amazon, I suppose. But the argument that content *should* cost more does not strike me as the right starting point.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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