The costing of ebooks

Paul Raven @ 20-02-2009

Yeah, another ebooks post, but new material is coming in so thick and fast that every day I seem to find an answer to a question that was raised the day before. Point in case – why aren’t ebooks priced at a tiny percentage of the cost of a hardback? Take it away, HarperCollins:

We still pay for the author advance, the editing, the copyediting, the proofreading, the cover and interior design, the illustrations, the sales kit, the marketing efforts, the publicity, and the staff that needs to coordinate all of the details that make books possible in these stages. The costs are primarily in these previous stages; the difference between physical and electronic production is minimal. In fact, the paper/printing/binding of most books costs about $2.00…

In other words, a $26 hardback equates to a $24 ebook.

Now, I’m in no position to refute those figures, but I don’t think it takes an economics expert to look at them and realise why the publishers are struggling at the moment; if their analysis people can only shave off $2 per unit by removing the printing, shipping, warehousing and remaindering from the equation, then there’s a business model that was on shaky ground before the ebook entered the picture. I suspect the bits I’ve bolded are where the haemorrhaging could be stemmed most effectively.

But it’s easy to say that from the outside looking in; if anyone among Futurismic‘s readership can supply hard figures on this stuff, I’d be glad to give you a soapbox, so drop us a line.