image by theunquietlibrary, flickr artist

when people are in the market to buy things, there’s anexpectationabout how much that product or service should cost. this expectation comes from a variety of sources including marketing, historical purchases, environmental factors, supply and demand, and more.perceivedvalue plays a large part as well. have you ever walked down the aisle of the grocery store and picked up a larger jar or can because the cost of 5 ounces more of apple juice or crushed tomatoes was worth the 10 extra cents? you will especially see this most prominently with sodas (or pop, if you’re from one of those crazy areas of the country). a 2-liter will run you a cool 99¢ while a 16oz bottle will cost you nearly a full dollar more. many will opt to by the 2-liter because it’s a better value. however, there are still people who will pay more for the ability to tote around a more mobile package. this is important!

unlike the crushed tomatoes which isperceivedas just ‘more’ in the same kind of package, when you buy the 16oz pepsi, you’re also buying utility. it’s easy to carry around. you can take it with you in the car, or while you’re walking around campus, or keep it on your desk as you’re trudging through your 9-to-5. there’s certainly value in that utility; value worth paying for. this is the argument that dan ariely tries to make regarding ebooks. i, however, think differently (and apparently so do others).

soda and ebooks are vastly different, so the concept of utility can’t honestly be applied to each of them in the same way. the reason for this being that with soda, the smaller packages which offer the consumer more utility still cost the bottlers and distributors as much, if not more, than the 2-liter versions. the plastic bottles, the machinery that cranks out the carbonateddiabetessauce, the massive trucks to distribute their contents across the land, and the shelf space at your local grocery store — these are all costs that the coca-colas and pepsis of the world have to pay for. this is why people don’t get angry with the cost of soda. when you enter the digital arena, though, the game changes.

ebooks don’t cost any more money to ‘print’ one billion copies as there is for one copy. and there’s nogreater cost to distribute one billion copies than it does to distribute one copy. and there are no more warehousing or shelving costs for one billion copies than there is for one copy. scale doesn’t matter in the world ofdigitalpublishing so there’s an expectation from consumers that the cost of digital books would be lower than the cost of an actual printed copy of the text because those cost savings — one would imagine — would be passed along to the end consumer.

but you know what happens when you assume…

just look through the amazon kindle store or the apple ibook store and run a comparison of digital copies to their printedbrethren. in many cases, the digital version costs nearly the same and — egregiously — in some cases they actually cost more. there is a significant cost savings being realized for these publishers that is not being passed on to the readers.and that’s why ebooks make people angry.

get ready for a lot more one-star reviews.