|Book production costs
||[Mar. 1st, 2010|03:07 pm]
This post by Charles Stross lays out the details. Read some of the comments if you've got time - they're very informative, and involve a lot of back-and-forth between Stross and his readers....or, how to reply to the "authors should sell ebooks directly to readers" or "why are ebooks so expensive?" arguments. |
Hmm. That explains why a book costs seven bucks, but it doesn't explain why an ebook costs two to four times as much as the paper book. Especially when what you buy, most often, is a single-use limited license to read an not an actual copy.
Though, I have to allow, the "direct from the author" sites are really their own explanation for why cutting out the editing and typesetting is a really bad idea. Wow, are most of them bad.
*has to stop giggling at Barnes & Noble's alleged 'discount' before she can answer*
Whew. Okay. Looks like they've mostly steadied down to only half again as much as the paper price, by and large, but not across the board. If you look around Fictionwise, for example, you'll see a fairly large spread, and plenty of books that don't get sold "hardcover" at all which are going in the 15-20 range. I have yet to see any ebook going cheaper than the paper. Even the short story sales are .50 to 1.50 bucks (Elizabeth Waters appears to have more sense of proportion than Misty Lackey).
When the outlets like B&N bill something as discounted, they look to be taking the highest possible price of any form the book has been published in and then offering the ten buck version as a "discount" from that. *wrinkles nose*
I agree that there needs to be some proportional pricing for ebooks - older books or books that were never published in hardcover could easily be priced lower. When Amazon or B&N marks an ebook as "List price $24 - discount price $9.99!," what's actually happening is that they're paying the usual half-list to the publisher and then selling the ebook *at a loss* in order to drive hardware adoption. This is a big part of the reason, I think, that prices for new ebook releases have tended to vary, and that the hardware-tied stores have sold at lower prices than other online sellers.
*snorts a bit* And so we go around on the proprietary hardware merry-go-round again. Though I suppose this time, at least, most of them have been smart enough to leave off the proprietary formats.
The pricing difference is variable depending on the format in which you usually buy your print books. True, a $10 ebook is substantially more expensive than a $3.99 or $5.99 mass market paperback, but it's substantially less than an $18-25 new release hardcover, which seems to be the usual point of comparison, as ebooks are (usually) released at about the same time as hardcovers and are therefore expected to cannibalize hardcover sales. (It's an open question whether that's actually true, but it seems logical to assume that dedicated ebook readers sell best to avid readers, who are more likely to purchase hardcovers.) Various reports I've seen on the Web suggest that the publisher's unit cost to print a hardcover run works out to something like 15% of the list price, so roughly $3-4 on that new hardcover pays for the book's printing. The remainder represents both cost-coverage and profit for the publisher and the distributor. I don't know what the economics of books which are only published in paperback form are like, but I'm guessing that they just run substantially lower margins and make up the difference in volume.
I don't know what the optimal solution is with respect to DRM. Sure, the availability of books via lending libraries hasn't put bookstores or publishers out of business, but library copies don't facilitate lossless digital copying and infinite distribution the way that ebooks do.
I think Baen has actually answered the DRM question pretty well. It's unnecessary. Yes, there is going to be piracy, and open copies makes it a bit faster. But Weber publishes books with CDs containing every previous book to date and invites people to pass them around and post them on the web, and Baen says he hasn't lost anything by it. *shrugs*
This may change as epaper matures, I suppose, but that still assumes that the same people who can spend 6 dollars on a paper book can also spend two hundred on a cranky reader plus another four per book on the book itself. I, for one, do not yet find that epaper that compelling!