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Printing Isn't The Costliest Part Of Producing Books

It’s an argument we hear all the time: ebooks should be much cheaper than their paper equivalents because there’s no printing involved. But is printing really the costliest part of the book publishing equation?

Picture by Kate Hiscock

Industry analyst Benedict Evans of Enders Analysis says not. Speaking to BBC News about an ongoing dispute over how publishers set ebook prices, he argues that this concept is something of a canard:

“The perception is that publishers are saving a fortune because they are not physically printing a book,” he said. Actually, said Mr Evans, printing costs were a small fraction of the total outlay required to produce a book. “All the costs are the people in the publisher’s HQ and the writer’s mortgage,” he said, adding that these had not changed significantly with the rise of ebooks.

That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be some discount for the ebook version; after all, no-one is claiming that printing and distribution cost nothing. But it’s not the case that what you pay for a book is largely determined by its physical printing cost, especially with mass-market titles.

Publishers warned on ebook prices [BBC News]


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