I am publishing a collection of short stories as an e-book. Continuing a series from last week, I’m trying to work through the relevant pricing issues and set a price for that content.
We all have expectations. Sometimes, particularly when we’re young or old, our expectations can be out of step with reality. When we’re young we don’t have the cognitive ability to understand the world as it is, so we fantasize. When we’re old we may have trouble keeping up with the pace of change, and the world may move on without us.
Perhaps no other aspect of daily life in America defines our expectations more than the price of goods. We are a consumer society, and as such we gauge our worth and meaning by what we have and what we can afford. Goods that are priced out of reach make us feel poor. Goods that are within reach make us feel wealthy — or at least as if we have options.
Everyone has heard a child request a new car or new house in the same way that they ask for a piece of candy or scoop of ice cream. To a child price is no object because money has no meaning. And who hasn’t heard an elderly person comment that a candy bar used to be nickel or a gallon of milk a dime? To an elderly person prices may mark the zenith of their life experience, while also serving as a reminder of the threat posed by inflation and rising prices.
People in the prime of their working lives generally have more realistic expectations about prices, but they can still experience dissonance when the cost of goods change. Gas at $4.00 a gallon is an outrage. Gas falling back to $2.50 is a windfall. But note: these emotions and responses are usually relative, not based on an actual understanding of the costs of production. Because we live lives abstracted from our own survival needs, and because our economic lives are abstracted through bank accounts, direct-deposit paychecks and credit cards, there is often no contextual reality to the prices we pay. We pay what we pay because that’s what an item costs, not because we know that’s what an item is worth. [ Read more ]