This is sort of about price but it's more about value.
I said I had been reading reviews on books other than mine. I was struck by one reader having a real tizzy fit about price. It went something like "You get what you pay for. I've never liked a book that cost less than $3. This reinforced that experience."
I had someone say about one of my books "Worth the Price!" Geez. It costs 99 cents. Does it mean it's bad or it's good? It was a 4 star review so I took it as a good thing but still is it really only worth 99 cents?
What's 99 cents? Symbolically. It's bargain basement. It's as low as you can go without being free and Amazon doesn't permit indie publishers to price at free.
If there is no overhead and there is no team of employees, what financial investment is there in my book? There's my time. My time used to be worth a great deal with I was working at ABC but my time has no value to anyone but me right now. I could, however, do something other than write and "give" my work away to people who have no sense of the lifetime invested in perfecting my craft and living to gain the experience and wisdom to put on the page. I can't put a monetary value on my time but if you take the Joe Konrath view, I'll get paid forever and forever is a long time. I'm not going to live forever, though, Joe. And I don't know if digital books will live forever either. So let's try to keep it to a decade for the time being. So 99 cents for the next 10 years, it's a good deal.
But value. Price is the only way I can think of this morning that determines value. AND, of course, rarity.
If there isn't much of something the price goes up. There are tons of diamonds in Africa but they're being withheld from the market so the price will remain artificially high. Supply and demand.
To be honest there are a ton of books being published that are total crap and maybe readers should be paid to read them. Already we see supply and demand kicking in. There is high demand for reading material but the supply of better books is always going to be smaller than the total of all books. Better books are not being priced as if they have greater value than the crap books at the moment.
Digital books don't exist in the real world, you can make 1 or a million and the cost to produce it is the same so they're not like diamonds. They're not even like Skeezik Stones sold at the Home Shopping Network.
There will come a time, probably sooner than I expect because everything in digital is faster than anyone expects, that there will be some kind of tier system observable.
I don't mean pricing Bad Apple 1 at 99 cents and all the rest in the series at $2.99 altho when writers do that it's a vague attempt to bring price and value into line. When I raised the price of the Kate book to keep feral children from leaving malicious reviews on it (and that worked) that was an expression of value. Essentially I was saying, This book is "worth" more, it needs to be treated better. And it's not about money but price is one of the best ways to identify intrinsic value.
I suspect (with no background in finance and dyscalcula) the reader, not the writer, will be the driving force in identifying value. Just like the feral children did for Kate.