Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What Is the Value of a Free Ebook? Louis Shalako.

Louis Shalako.

Louis Shalako

Last year I gave away probably ten thousand ebooks. In my opinion, any business may promote itself, and any business might claim this expense as a legitimate business deduction.

Yet I have a funny feeling the ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) won’t see it that way at all.

I regularly sell ebooks for $0.99, $1.99, or $2.99. I’ve had them priced higher and sold a few books. The reason I don’t do this all the time is that volume suffers, and pretty quickly—and rankings are determined by an algorithm. Lower volume, lower the ranking.

Sales and net earnings drop. This is why I resist the urge, and the overwhelming advice to raise prices. The fact is, they don’t know anything and some of them are also full of shit.

That’s just my opinion after seven or eight years of study—such algorithms are proprietary and rightly so. Otherwise it would be too easy to game the algorithms for the average person, although I do a bit of it myself.

Let’s take a baseline figure of $0.99/ebook, rounded off to the dollar to keep the math simple. 

I gave away 10,000 ebooks, that’s a promotional expense for the calendar year 2016.

Ebooks have perceived and intrinsic value. That’s why people pay money for them and they take them in impressive numbers when they’re free.

It takes effort to produce them, I have to have the internet, a phone, a camera, I have to purchase stock photos for the covers. I have to put the hours in and my time is valuable if not exactly precious sometimes. There are all kinds of expenses involved. Some people spend a lot more than I do, but then, I do all the work around here.

That’s how I learned how—that’s how I trained myself.

That’s how I got all the wonderful skills, ladies and gentlemen.

And yet the ODSP will deny the validity, or more accurately, the monetary value, of an ebook—just as I kind of did myself, over the last seven or eight years. I say that because while I know I’ve given away over 120,000 ebooks since Sept. 2010, I’ve never reported that to the ODSP.

At an estimated royalty of $0.35/per book, mostly for the sake of completing our little math exercise, that would add up to $3,5000.00 CDN in promotion.

At one time, there were a lot of book commentators, traditionally published authors for the most part, blogging and bleating on the subject of ‘devaluing’ literature and especially ebooks by setting them at free or $0.99 or whatever. By the very nature of the product, this is possible. A free print book is much more expensive to produce, I will grant you that.

I saw it for what it was at the time. It was just polemic. They were just trying to destroy all the credibility and all the legitimacy of independent publishing. They were trying to destroy ebooks, ladies and gentlemen. Their own position was threatened by this revolutionary technology.

They had an interest in sapping the confidence not just of the writers, but also of the readers.

They wanted to control the situation. They wanted to keep us out of the market, didn’t they?

The government of the Province of Ontario, not very popular at the moment, has an interest in controlling costs too. They want to control the situation too.

The way they do that with the 750,000 disabled clients of the Ontario Disability Support Program is to make us think that we are stupid. That we can’t do the math. That we are somehow the enemy, and that for whatever imaginary reason, we must be punished.

We live in such fear of our benefits being cut and not being able to pay the rent that we tend to take the easy way out and go with the flow. We don’t ask too many questions, We tend to avoid our social worker rather than seeking them out.

We tend to keep our mouths shut and our heads down. We tend to keep moving.


Fuck that.

No more.

No more.

Nothing great was ever achieved without risk, without thought, effort, and ultimately, sacrifice.

Hopefully that’s not going to be me, but this government would do well to lower the rate of claw-back on earnings for ODSP clients who work or operate a business to $0.35/dollar rather than the current rate of fifty percent. They would do well to raise the allowable earnings limit, bearing in mind the poverty line in this province and across the country is estimated by this very government to be $22,000.00/year for a single adult.

Your pension pays a bare $13,000.00 or so and that is simply not good enough, ladies and gentlemen.

Not good enough.

This government would be doing the right thing by putting a line for ‘promotional expense’ on the reporting form for business and expenses. Not to do so would appear disingenuous, especially so now that this government has been duly notified of the moral repercussions.

I might have a few other ideas as well, as time goes along.

Naturally, these are suggestions rather than demands, which would presuppose a rather different power relationship than that which presently exists between the disabled and the government of this province.

Thank you for reading.

Oh, and don't be afraid to grab a free ebook once in a while. You might be surprised by how helpful that can be sometimes.