Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Of Chocolate and eBooks

Per my previous blog about Biagio Fine Chocolate of Washington, DC, I submit the latest additions to the Stash. Pay attention, there might be a quiz.

Waialua Estate 70% Dark 5-Pack - Grown in Hawaii, made by E. Guittard of San Francisco, and distributed by Dole. This is the only single-origin chocolate to come from American soil, and you can buy these .35 ounce slivers (each stamped with a gorgeous design - I'll be sure to take a picture before I eat them all) in a pack for about $7.50 at Biagio. Online prices may vary.

The gentleman at Biagio recommended Waialua for a nice dark experience, and suggested we might detect a faint pineapple finish. Well, the chocolate itself is just amazing, flavor-rich with hints of red berry - maybe a bit of currant or raspberry, too - but if I hold the taste long enough there is the smallest clue of citrus there. I'm enjoying this now and wishing I had a nice glass of red to go with it.

Vosges Naga Bar 41% Mini-Bar - Sweet Indian curry powder and coconut flakes in deep milk. These go for about $2.50 online and in stores, I think that was the price we paid. The aroma of curry is very evident on peeling back the sealed foil. Flecks of coconut are just visible in the medium brown bar, which is stamped ethereal. Good description of the taste, too. The curry lends a flavorful spice that well complements the sweet of the chocolate, while the coconut provides a nice accompanying background taste. Very smooth with a pleasant milk finish. Of the Vosges I've tried so far, this is the one to beat.

Ithaca Fine Chocolates Art Bar: Dark with Hazelnuts - Actually purchased at Teaism for close to $2-3. Ithaca prides themselves on being the first American chocolate company to offer fair trade organic chocolate.

Kshocolat Orange and Cardamom (72% dark) - A Scottish chocolatier. I keep hearing Mike Myers' Scottish character in my head when I look at these bars. If it's not from Scotland, it's crap! I guess we'll soon find out, eh? These go for about $4-5.

Kshocolat Honeycomb and Vanilla (Milk) - See above.

Vosges d'Oliva Bar (white) - At last, we found the elusive white chocolate/kalamata olive bar. I can't wait to tuck into this one. I liked, too, that we only had to pay $6 for this one. I've seen Vosges near me go for as high as $9 a bar. Of course, Biagio had more expensive bars than that. One customer ahead of us paid $12 for a single-origin Ecuadorian bar.

Which brings me how this post relates, in some way, to eBooks. For years now, people have argued about the ideal price to put on something that is, technically, intangible. Yes, eBooks are books in that they provide information and/or entertainment, can be catalogued with ISBN numbers, and are distributed through major retailers like Amazon.com. Companies like Sony are involved in the industry by providing handheld readers for eBooks, and publishers like Harlequin and Kensington have recently come to see the value in offering eBooks for sale.

Yet, there is still the price issue. Phaze Books range in price from $2 - $7, and I'll tell you now the $7 tag may be going away soon. (More on that later) This is about standard for other ePublishers on our level. Major NY pubs with eBook options may offer books at the regular hardcover price, with books ranging from $9.99 to as high as $24.95. A reader faced with the choice between a tangible book that sits on a shelf as opposed to an eBook which a critic might liken to "air", one might expect the reader to choose the former. To pay twenty-five bucks, one will want proof of it, and a book does just that.

Well, I ponder this, and then I think about my trip to the chocolate shop. I saw chocolates that started at $2 for one bar, and others that cost much, much more. The aforementioned customer who bought the $12 chocolate originally thought he only had to pay six - turns out he read the wrong tag on the shelf. Even so, he paid the $12 anyway because he knew what he was getting. The shop clerk told us that, even though they do their best to keep the prices down, customers don't blink at the price tags. When somebody pays $12 for a top-ranked single-origin Bolivian bar, he knows he is getting a quality chocolate.

Now, what do you do with a $12 chocolate bar? You eat it. Can't keep it too long or the chocolate will temper. Once you do eat it, though, it's gone. It doesn't come back.

Pay $6 for an eBook. Read it. Guess what? It's still there. You can save it to a disk or flash drive, return to it, and enjoy it again if you wish. Same with the $24.95 eBook. It is also virtual space that doesn't clutter your living room.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make here is that price doesn't necessarily have to be an issue when it comes to buying eBooks. Personally, I don't intend to raise prices on ours - we did once before and actually saw an increase in sales. Cost shouldn't have to be a deterrant when enjoying a good book...assuming you have the money for it. It's a tight economy here, yes, but I believe it will get better. So will the books and the chocolate.

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