“In his forthcoming book […] the American author Robert Levine has an excellent chapter on publishing in which he interrogates the forces driving the pricing of books, in both their paper and digital forms. And some of the explanations he gives are (to me at least) surprising. For example, it turns out that “publishers only spend $3.50 to print and distribute a hardback”. (Let’s say it’s £3 in Britain.) So when, this autumn, you go into your local bookshop and spend £30 […] you really are just putting a large amount of profit into the hands of […] publisher, with some knocked off for the retailer. Right?
Well, yes and no. If you think of books primarily as physical objects, then off course they’ll seem a rip-off, because printing and distributing them is cheap. But as Levine points out, what you’re really paying for when you buy a book is something different. You are buying the “text itself”. And why is that so expensive? Because the publisher will, in many cases, have paid the author a considerable sum for the right to sell it.”.
That “considerable sum”, dear reader, amounts to somewhere between 4-8%.
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