It happens all too often ... an online shopper looks at an ebook at Amazon or bn.com or ... and disagrees with the vendor's price. That's fair.
And proceeds to give that book a one-star review, "justified" with a rant about greed and/or the evils of ebook pricing. That's often quite unfair, and that bit of venting claims the author as collateral damage.
First, the background: opinions differ on ebook pricing. Some shoppers feel that ebooks should be far cheaper than any physical book because an ebook can be replicated for free. Authors, editors, cover artists, distributors, and publishers expect to earn something for their contributions to a book -- and that requires a nonzero price on books, even ebooks. (Especially ebooks, as that format claims more and more of the book market.) Ebook reader vendors, meanwhile, sometimes use ebook content as a loss leader. The device vendor's short-term motivation is to lure/lock customers into a particular content ecosystem.
Publishers and etailers have long tussled over these issues. Even as I type, a major antitrust suit about ebook pricing is at trial between Apple and the Department of Justice -- the big publishing houses having settled out of court.
Do I know the "right" price for an ebook? No (other than nonzero, in the belief readers want authors to continue writing). Do I know how the tussle among publishers, etailers, and the DoJ will come out? Again, no.
Here's what I do know ...
Except for self-published books, the author does not set the price -- for any format, including ebooks.
What happens when an online shopper gives an ebook a one-star review with accompanying pricing rant? The etailer, almost certainly, does not notice. The publisher, almost certainly, does not notice. And the book's rating takes a hit.
I doubt that many people expend the energy to trawl, say, Amazon, hunting for book prices with which to take umbrage. When they slam a book about its price, it's because they looked up that book. They were interested in its content and/or had a positive feeling about the author.
And it's the author of that book who suffers as a result of the pricing complaint. (Certainly the raters believe ratings affect behavior, or they wouldn't bother to give ratings.)
Think of the situation as a bit like walking into Starbucks and then balking at paying four bucks for the coffee. Walking out is fair. Complaining to the store manager? That's fair, too (if only as a viable way to get one's gripe to Corporate, where policies and pricing are set). Posting a sign to blame the barista for the prices? Definitely not cool.
And another thing ... on most (all?) etail sites, ratings are often shared across all editions of a work. The one-star "review" about an ebook also gets tallied into the ratings for all print and audiobook editions.
I imagine some people giving price-centric ratings will protest, "but I explain my rating in the text of the review." Maybe so. After that rating is a few weeks or months old, no longer at the top of the reviews list (of shoppers who sort reviews by most recent reviews first -- that's only one option), the review text is out of sight unless one hunts for it.
But the drag of the one-star review on the book's overall rating continues forever ...
A related complaint of mine: gripes that the ebook is priced higher than the paperback -- before the paperback edition has been released! Almost always the ebook price drops when the paperback comes out.
So, ebook shoppers ... don't like a price? Believe that it's unfair, unjust, unreasonable? Complain to the etailer. Complain to the publisher.
Don't punish the author -- the person who invested months or years to write the book that you found interesting enough to consider buying. For all you know, the author agrees with you, believes he'd sell a lot more books at a different price, but whose publisher gives him no say in the matter.
In fact, don't rate a product -- any product -- you haven't used. If you haven't read a book (or, at the least, given it a try), you have no business rating it.
And that's my rant ...