Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book vs...Coffee?

I admit, I'm not much of a coffee person.  By extension, I'm also not much of a Starbucks person.  Occasionally, mostly in the winter, I'll pop in and get some exotically named warm drink.  A special treat!  But it's not something I do regularly.  Yet I know there are many, many people for whom a trip to Starbucks (or Dunkin Donuts, etc.) is a regular, daily occurrence.

So, yesterday I'm out doing errands with my 13 yr. old daughter, who loves fancy coffee drinks.  I got a Starbucks gift card last week for my birthday, so we stopped at our local one for a quick treat.  It was too warm and steamy out for hot coffee, so I decided to try a cold drink instead (even though I'm pretty sure that I don't like cold coffee, period!).  Daughter talked me into trying some sort of mocha cookie crumble frappuccino (almost like a coffee milkshake, I guess?!).  So, we ordered two....no joke, it was just short of $10.  So, somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 per drink.  Luckily, I had my gift card, but still.  I was a little taken aback by the price.  But, we waited and watched as the barista made our drinks.  I think it took about 3 minutes, tops, and we were on our way, cold drinks in hand (and for the record, no, I didn't like it!  Ick!).

But it got me thinking about book pricing and the constant demand for lower prices, especially for ebooks--about the craze for 99 cent books on Amazon, how there are about a gazillion titles available for $2.99 or $1.99...even FREE.  Over and over again, I've heard readers exclaim how they will NEVER pay more than $2.99 for an ebook, EVER.

And it made me think of the hours I put into writing each of my books.  Months, even.  Do these same readers--the ones who unequivocally won't pay more than $2.99 for an ebook--ever get a frappuccino at Starbucks?  Do they complain that they'll never, EVER pay more than $2.99 for that frapp that takes a barista approximately THREE MINUTES to prepare (and that was for TWO!)?  And let's face it...no offense meant to baristas, and I'm sure there are creative ones out there, but do they ever suffer from barista block?  Do they ever wonder exactly how they're going to finish making that coffee drink, stressing over and it and losing sleep over it?  I mean, probably not, right?  It only takes them three minutes, after all (and okay, I know I should probably be factoring in the time taken to grow the coffee, harvest the coffee, process the coffee, but whatever).

And maybe you'll say, well, coffee buyers don't really have a choice.  That's how much fancy coffee drinks cost, so if you want to drink them, that's just how much you have to be willing to spend.  But it isn't really true.  There is the indie-book equivalent of the fancy Starbucks drink--the "I can make a fancy cup of coffee at home" alternative.  I did this just last week.  I fired up my cappuccino maker, heated my milk, added a squirt of caramel and topped the whole thing with whipped cream.  Voila, a beautiful caramel latte!  It was delicious, and I guess I could do the fancy math and figure out my exact costs per cup but I won't.

Anyway, I'm mostly rambling, but I guess my question is, when did we, as American consumers, come to value a fancy cup of coffee that takes three minutes to produce over a book that took months to write/edit/publish??  Where are the "I'm never paying more than $2.99 for a cup of coffee" vehement declarations?!  The grumbling rants about how overpriced coffee is, the all-caps rants that COFFEE STORES ARE RIPPING OFF COFFEE DRINKERS AND SHOULD LOWER THEIR PRICES, OR GUESS WHAT?!  WE WILL RUN THEM ALL OUT OF BUSINESS!  AFTER ALL, WE CAN MAKE OUR OWN COFFEE AT HOME!

But seriously?  Why will people pay $4.99 for a mocha cookie crumble frapp but not for a book??

And me?  Seriously, I'm NEVER paying more than $2.99 again for a cup of coffee.  I will spend the rest of my Starbucks gift card on...I dunno, a mug?  Or something.

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