[ubuntu-uk] Book costs (was Re: e-books without Adobe Digital Editions)

Neil Greenwood neil.greenwood.lug at gmail.com
Wed Nov 10 08:17:04 GMT 2010

On 9 November 2010 19:53, richard <rjs1064 at u.genie.co.uk> wrote:
> On 09/11/10 15:40, Neil Greenwood wrote:
>> On 9 November 2010 13:13, pmgazz<pmgazz at gmx.co.uk>  wrote:
>>> Most of all, I'd love to know how it is that digital book production and
>>> distribution - which has to be much cheaper than print surely - wants £16
>>> per copyrighted book when I can get a print copy physically mailed to me for
>>> less than 25% of that price? Well, I mean, if you don't want people to steal
>>> stuff . . .
>>> Paula
>> Most of the costs are not down to distribution and printing (think
>> editing, marketing, copy-editing, artwork, etc., etc.). Also, there
>> are economies of scale that bring the price of physical books down. So
>> the actual differential is much smaller than you'd expect. There can
>> also be differences in the contract with the author that affect the
>> price of the digital copy.
>> I agree that the example you quoted is extreme though. The price
>> *should* be about the same.
>> Cofion/Regards,
>> Neil.
> All the editing etc has to be done for the print copy anyway, and  an e
> book has none of the costs of physical book. Such as distribution,
> handling, printing, staffing the shop, pulping the ones that don't sell!
>  E books should be considerably cheaper, only trouble is the book world
> is scared stiff of them.

That's not how it works though. The publisher will amortise the costs
of editing, copy-editing, marketing, artwork, printing, warehousing,
distributing, author advance, etc. across the expected print run
(including physical and digital editions). Then of course, they add a
healthy profit on top. A significant chunk of the profit they attempt
to make on one title goes towards acquiring future titles (kind of
like R&D expenses in software development).

There would be no point in a publisher applying the costs of the
physical book just to the physical book and then trying to sell the
electronic version for the unique costs it attracts (which still
include some production costs, distribution, marketing, etc. Bandwidth
is not free), since they would shoot themselves in the foot, sell
maybe 50 physical books at $10 and thousands of electronic ones at
$0.10 (random figures, and very poor sales), and make a massive loss
on the title.

The major problem *is* that a lot of publishers are scared, but a
minority have actually learned something from the debacle that the
music industry went through (and is still suffering). O'Reilly and
Apress, among others, publish electronic versions of technical books.
Some of them even come without DRM. In the fiction world, Baen, Tor
and Subterranean Press - OK, I'm a sci-fi geek :-) - are doing good
things for readers and authors alike.

A lot of this is just my opinion after reading blog posts from various
authors (Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, Neil Gaiman, Wil Wheaton, maybe
others) who have gone through the process. And it has a very
US-centric bias because of that. I'm not aware of any UK publishers'
actions, good or bad, when it comes to electronic books.


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