If the writer thinks of the reader’s time as their more valuable resource, getting the reader to purchase the book is less than half the battle. A reader regrets investing their time more than they will complain about the cost of yet another unfinished book added to their book horde.
But true competition for the work doesn’t exist until the book makes it to the reader’s home. A friend of mine points out that great work only creates a bigger market for all work in the same subgenre. Once inside the home, however, it doesn’t matter if the book is purchased or borrowed. Library books have the benefit of needing to be read immediately but a returned, unfinished story is out of sight, mind and house.
It’s important to always remember that the reader has finite hours in their life in general. Remove the working, sleeping, family and social obligations and meat suit needs, and the average reader has very few hours they can do as they please as an adult. The author’s work doesn’t just compete with every book the reader is reading, intends to read, or would like to read again; they’re competing against anything else the reader could be doing with all their other hobbies and entertainment.
Most readers do not begrudge the author the money they spent on books they started but didn’t finish. But they will go across multiple review platforms to let any other future reader know the story wasn’t worth their time. So while it’s important to remember that publishing is an industry, which means publishing is financially capitalistic, it feeds a market that is hungry for engaging work that grips its reader.
The author should only concern themselves with learning how to do that better. Publishing is the aftereffect of creating work that respects the reader’s investment.