Video Overview: Pizzey & Knight Digital Edition

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Video Overview: Pizzey & Knight Digital Edition
From: David Adams <>
Date: Sat, 30 Nov 2013 10:20:06 +1100
> It amazes me that so many people consider the price of this app as
> excessive. You get so much more than a book field guide with updates
> provided. To update a book you need to wait until a new version is produced
> and then pay at least the same as your original purchase price. For me, the
> convenience of having multiple guides available on a lightweight device and
> updated regularly at no further cost, is more than worth the initial outlay.

My answer ends up running long. Please skip or delete if you're not
interested. You've been warned ;-)

Pricing is a black art and pricing psychology is not rational. One thing
you can be sure of is that it's a rarity that value assessments are based
on measurable real-world benefit. As far as software purchases go, I think
there are a couple of ways that people figure out if something is expensive
or not:

* How foolish will I look buying this if things go wrong?
* How much do similar items cost?

I think that the first point is the #1 factor in corporate IT software
purchasing choices. (They used to say "no one ever got hired for buying
IBM"...then "Microsoft.") Will the software get the job done? Is this
purchase good value for money? Sure, they matter....but the fear of
embarrassment matters a whole lot more than is generally acknowledged. This
is mostly another topic for another list, but the embarrassment risk also
goes into personal choices. If I buy a .99 piece of software for my
electronic thingy and it turns out to be junk, I won't be missing any hot
meals because of it. (Unless it was an app to show me where there are hot
meals in the area and it tells me to navigate into an unpopulated area...)
Even still....99 cents? Hmmmm. I think I might be happier with the .99

In years gone by, software was expensive and had huge, huge margins. Even
being a commercial programmer could be a fairly expensive
undertaking...then Philippe Kahn released the Borland Pascal compiler for
$100. It was about a 10th of the price of its competitors and was a better
product. As time marched on, the price of high-quality shrink-wrapped
software kept coming down. I've got a friend that likes shiny new things
_and_ that is willing to take more of a risk on software purchases. He's
ready to say "Okay, it cost me $40 and it saved me 10 hours. I won't keep
using it but I got my money's worth." He's unusual. Over the years I've
also seen his "I'll buy it and see how it goes" price go down from $39.95
then about 9.99 and it's hovering now around 99 cents. Apple really didn't
entirely do programmers a favor by making zero the new 99 cents. You have
to sell a whole lot of software at 99 cents (less 30%) to make a living. If
you're selling it for zero, you have to make it up on huge volume ;-)

So, out there in the broader world software pricing has literally *nothing*
to do with the value of the software. Obviously a sweeping generalization
like that isn't going to be true in every case, so take this as a general
point that I'd argue applies to a whole lot of situations. Anyway, back to
bird apps. Worth, value, and cost are pretty different properties. "Worth"
is what they're worth to you personally, cost is what they cost and value
is a factor of the two. Cost is fixed, worth and value depend on us. By
nearly any *rational* measure, birding apps can be considered cheap...even
a $70 one. Well, if you use them, obviously. The amount of education, help
and enjoyment you can get out of such an app is pretty vast. So, I won't
argue about the *worth* of these apps. Price is another matter...

The question of what any of these apps is worth is, in many ways, tangental
to what they should cost. The original developer may talk about their
development costs, salaries, business expenses, costs of licensing sounds
and images, the risk they faced from all of those costs before $1 could hit
their bank account. Personally, I think that's all reasonable. When it
comes to price, I don't's irrelevant. It just doesn't matter in a
market sense....your development costs have zero bearing on the ultimate
value of the program to me or it's ability to set a price in the market.  I
don't mean that in a negative way or as a criticism of the software
developers. (Honestly! I have nothing but thanks and praise, particularly
for apps that go the extra mile like the Pizzey app.)

"How big is that? is a similar question to "How expensive is that?" Size
comparisons are based on just that, comparisons. If you don't have
something to compare to, you can't judge size. Pricing is very, very much
based by comparisons with similar things. If this cabbage costs $2/kilo,
why does that one cost $10/kilo? For apps, people compare the price of
similar apps. If Morcombe is $30 why is Pizzey $70? Again, Apple didn't
necessarily do developers a favor by reducing the standard costs of
software to the incredible lows they've reached. (They give away their
developer tools, make their developer program very cheap and make it all up
on huge margins on their really excellent hardware.) Oh, a handful of
popular open source projects have obviously had a lot to do with the price
of software dropping...but, another subject for another list... Anyway,
there isn't any solid way to say if Pizzey is "big" and Morcombe is
"normal" or if Pizzey is "normal" and Morcombe is "small".

I try to buy birding apps whenever I visit somewhere, even briefly. As a
result, I've got apps for here, the US, Europe, southern Africa and some
specialist guides. Sadly, much of the world doesn't have guides or they've
got guides of limited value. The standard price is around $30 although
you'll see amazing deals on US apps posted from time to time. (They've got
a range of excellent apps and a whole lot of competition.) What does $30-40
buy you? The range of features is pretty broad:

An electronic version of a paper guide with no sounds and a worthless index.
+indexes and lists
+birds comparison features
+longer text articles
+listing features
+plus expert tips on hard-to-distinguish guides

So, some guides are nothing but an expensive electronic book and others are
full, fledged hyper-media apps with intelligently linked content....but the
price is usually about the same. Given that, I tend to feel a bit burned if
an app doesn't have sounds and, by now, disappointed if it doesn't have
photographs.  By that standard, the Pizzey app is expensive. Is it worth
it? Meaning, is it a good value? That's up to each person to decide.
Overall, I like it better than Morcombe...but I expected to before I got
it. And, to be fair, when you pay more for something you've invested just
that much more into believing you made the right choice...

P.S. I think I might have come off as sounding anti-Apple. That would be a
mistake. Huge fan. And, for what it's worth, they've done a fantastic job
of getting developers money from apps. So much software has been pirated
over the years...but not really with the App Store. They store experience
is decent enough that I keep giving them money...and I'm cheap. I haven't
yet put any money into my Android apps....Apple owns me as I started out on

P.P.S. Right, I forgot to mention: Birders pay more. I've got an app that's
an electronic version of a huge color guide to several thousand North
American mushrooms. I think that it cost about $1...the book was $30-40. Is
the app worth more than $1? I guess not...but if this were a field guide
for birds or mammals, the app would cost a lot. Same with fish guides -
they don't cost much in app form but cost plenty on paper. With that said,
there aren't a lot of fish ID apps and the best one I've found to date is
free. So, yeah, birding apps are priced partially on what the market will
support...and that's more than business apps, field guides for other
subjects, entertainment, etc. In fact, they're more expensive than just
about any other app category I've seen. Not complaining...I'm grateful to
have them...they're the future of field guides and wonderful to have
around...I only wish there were more. Here in Aus, we should feel grateful
that we're in a position to worry about which one to buy!

P.P.S. For the iOS people out there, grab some discounted gift cards at
Woolies or wherever and save a few dollars.

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