I wrote earlier this week about an ebook I purchased which was riddled with extremely obvious copy errors. The article sparked an interesting discussion about the true cost of editing, what steps are involved—and how much it would cost to make those steps happen. There is a piece of this whole puzzle that is still really puzzling to me, as you’ll see below. But I wanted to clarify a few matters in hopes that we can arrive at a more productive dialogue here.

First of all, when people say that ebooks should be cheaper, they don’t mean so in an unfair way. I would not expect an ebook version of a current hardcover release to be $2, for instance. I would (and have) paid a premium for a new release I badly wanted. But I would not expect to pay that same premium for an ebook of a decades-old mass market paperback, either. I would expect that since the paper version is now so much less, I could get the ebook version for commensurately less as well. To keep things simple, I’ll go with the statistic often cited by publishers themselves that the actual physical object costs for a paper book only account for 10-15% of the price of the book. So, calculating a fair ebook price using that number, let’s average that to 12% and say that for a $10 book, the paper and paper-related costs account for $1.20 of that price. To me, a fair price for that sort of book would be $8.80, or ‘$10 minus the $1.20 paper cost.’

And what does this cost mean from an ‘ebooks are expensive to edit’ standpoint? It means that it’s nonsense. We’ve taken off that $1.20 physical object cost, but the whole rest of it is still the same! The ebook editors have exactly the same $8.80 per book that the print ones had to play with. We are not short-changing them or treating their ebook like a lesser entity at all. Where we ARE making it cheaper for the customer, we’re doing it by taking it solely out of the physical object cost.

Now, if, as Marion Gropen asserts in her thoughtful (and appreciated) comments on my earlier story, the problem is that the ebook version will sell so many fewer copies that the same $8.80 per book will not be enough to finance its costs, then the publishers have a few choices here besides ‘short-change customers by charging them full retail price for an inferior product.’ They can improve their marketing to sell more copies and therefore bring down the cost and bring up the profit, or they can reduce their costs per book by streamlining any outdated or inefficiency work-flow processes.

But isn’t this true of any business? It’s certainly true in mine! I run an after-school program, for instance, for which we charge parents an extra fee. The school gets a cut. I get a cut. And there are certain costs—direct ones, such as buying supplies for a craft project, and less direct ones such as the liability the school assumes (which may or may not ever materialize for them in any sort of dollars and sense way) for me and my students while I am using their facility and their equipment and their students. So what we did when we decided to launch this program is sit down with the money guy and work out a sort of target for ourselves, to make sure that the program would both run well and be cost effective. Taking into account all of these details mentioned above, plus the desire of both the school and myself to make a profit, we arrived at a minimum number: 3 kids. If we had at least 3 kids, it was worth our mutual while to run the program. If we didn’t have three kids, we wouldn’t run it. That’s fair, right?

But…know what would NOT be fair? Run it with TWO kids and just don’t feed them the snacks or let them do the craft projects. You see my point?

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. “So, calculating a fair ebook price using that number, let’s average that to 12% and say that for a $10 book, the paper and paper-related costs account for $1.20 of that price. To me, a fair price for that sort of book would be $8.80, or ‘$10 minus the $1.20 paper cost.’”

    A fair list price, perhaps, if they’re allowing discounts. But if the publishers refuse to allow retailers to offer discounts like they can with print versions, a fair list price needs to be cheaper than that – 50% off print list for a hardcover (Amazon’s discounts generally range from 33% to 46%, so that’s either slightly over their 15% materials discount or undercutting it by a lot), 33% off print list for a mass-market paperback (Borders perpetually has an e-mail coupon worth at least 25% off, more typically 33%), and I don’t read enough trades to have decided on a price point but it’s certainly not going to be any lower than that of mass-market paperbacks.

  2. Andrew, I agree with you. I simply used those numbers in the interest of maximum fairness, since those were the publisher’s own figures 🙂 I personally will NEVER pay more for an ebook than I would for the lowest-priced paper edition, so if the publisher is allowing discounts on the paper edition, they need to price the ebook accordingly lower, if they want a sale out of me on it 🙂

    The publisher does have choices here. If they need to sell X number of books in order to make a title profitable and they don’t think they can hit that number, they can not publish the book (the same way I won’t run MY program without three kids). Or they can try and sell more books. Or they can try and cut costs in a way that will not affect the quality of the final product. And so on 🙂 But ‘bookd are expensive to produce’ is not a fair excuse for putting out an inferior product and charging people money for it.

  3. One thing to note is that editing is by nature inefficient, just as painting a painting is inefficient. Things that require human decision making (e.g., is since, because, or as appropriate here?) are inherently inefficient processes and the only way to make them more efficient and cost-effective is to automate them, with results like we see when the only editing is via the word processor’s spellcheck.

    A second thing worth noting is that the pricing dichotomy between hardcover and paperback is a false dichotomy. The actual production cost differential is relatively small, generally less than $1, and in many cases closer to 50 cents, being the difference between the hard cover and paper cover. Of course, there is also a trim size differential, but that is a rarely discussed cost because in the end it tends to balance out.

    I raise these 2 points because I think the real answer to the problem is not in having a third form factor for books (i.e., hardcover, paperback, ebook) but keeping to 2 form factors and elimination of the paperback. Eliminating the paperback would permit higher pricing of ebooks, which publishers and authors would like, would compel readers to either move to ebooks or buy hardcovers (increased sales of which would also boost publishers’ bottom lines), and would eliminate the albatross of price comparison of ebooks to paperbacks.

    Publishers are making the same mistake that Microsoft has made for years — an unwillingness to cut the umbilical cord to legacy platforms. Every new operating system Microsoft puts out and every new version of Microsoft Office are backwards compatible. That compatibility hampers development of the new software. Apple, to its credit, cares very little about backward compatibility. Its view has long been that to grow one must cut strings. This has not been great for the consumer, but the consumer adapts and even builds monuments to Apple while disparaging Microsoft.

    That is the lesson book publishers need to learn. There is no salvation in slaving to three formats when two are ideal. This is a lesson that self-published authors have unintentionally learned when they offer their books solely as ebooks or print-on-demand, but in no other format.

  4. What are the physical object costs for a paper book?
    I know that they include paper, binding and so on. But, do these costs include warehousing, paying rent for physical store in the mall, paying shop assistants,
    Do those costs include returns?
    Do they include people that went to the shop, only to find that the book is no longer sold because it had to make space for the newest mega-bestseller?

  5. While I agree that e-book pricing has to be revisited, and that it shouldn’t depend on keeping the print ecosystem alive. It is interesting that the conversation never seems to be about the value of the content. If publishers are producing quality content, which people certainly want, then why should they lower its value. There are certainly other options of lower quality that can be obtained.

    It seems to me that there is a big outcry regarding why the latest book by Stephen King is worth 20.99 instead of .99. 20.99 buys you a certain quality, .99 another. You can either choose to buy a Stephen King book or a John Locke, but ultimately you get the content you pay for.

  6. I think Marion assumed that you couldn’t get a good proofreader for less than a livable wage. She may be right, but you may be able to get three mediocre proofreaders for much less than that, and use the combined product to get an end result just as good. Isn’t that basically what Project Gutenberg does? I was involved in an organization that was digitizing a bunch of old baseball scoresheets, and that’s how we proofread. It was an all-volunteer organization, and we used multiple proofreaders per scoresheet.

    (As for Microsoft, it may have been a mistake from the consumer end, but not from the enterprise end; companies have all sorts of old custom programs that they still need to be able to run.)

  7. Joanna: You must not have read or understood Marion’s breakdown of the costs associated with conversions for books that sell only a few copies (e.g., just about EVERY ebook). Please re-read before you continue to make yourself look bad. Her numbers are NOT off, or unrealistic at all. Your continual ignorance of these publishing realities does not make you appear open to learning or real discussion.

    I know you’re a teacher. Your comments about the ‘problems in the publishing industry’ sound just like the ignorant comments about the teaching profession going on throughout the US in regards to accountability. Using words like ‘nonsense’ to describe Marion’s long and helpful walking through of the issues doesn’t help matters either, not matter how many times you also mention that they are ‘thoughtful’.

  8. Excellent post Joanna. Unfortunately the publishing insiders are blind to these issues, evidenced by the comments above and in your original article. You clearly have some idea of basic economics and professional ethics. It seems to me that these publishers have neither. They claim that it costs $3 per page to avoid the appalling type errors you documented in your previous article – that claim alone is evidence of their credibility.

    It would take about 15 seconds a page to proof read to the level required to obliterate those kinds of errors. That is 4 pages a minute, or 240 pages an hour. That is an average full novel for approx an hour. Add half an hour to collate the results for resubmitting to the editor, and that adds up to a total of one and a half hours. Let’s be generous and given them two hours, to include a coffee break, and pay $15 an hour to a reasonably educated college student. Result = $30.

    So the errors you documented in your previous article, and most of those documented in the many many other comments citing similar errors, could be obliterated for $30!

    There is a lot of absolute balderdash offered hereabouts. I am still not sure if it is as a result of just too many years in an antiquated industry, sheer incompetence, or wilful misrepresentation.

    The ultimate fall out is that the market will sort all of this out in time. Publishers consistently offering this kind of appalling quality will be punished by the readers. $4 – $7 dollars will end up being the price for the vast majority of eBooks and a lot of money will be made by those with more competence and integrity and professionalism. Thankfully the capitalist market will be the ultimate arbiter.

  9. Anon, I did read her comments. And my poibt is that if the book is not goi to sell enough copies to merit its true cost, then that publisher has the same choices any other vex or of any other item has—reduce the cost, improve the sales, or not bring the product to market. This is business, and in that respect, it is just like any other business. Being a publisher of books instead of a seller of widgets or purveyor of programs or what have you does not automatically confer upon you special snowflake status that makes it okay for you to put out an inferior product and expect customers to pay full price for it.

  10. Santiago, the whole genesis of this dialogue came from the troubling rise in poorly proofed commercial releases. Paying $20 for the new Stephen King does not assure you of a certain quality anymore. If I pay $20 and encounter the level of quality I cited in my previous article, in would be one angry customer! If they could assure me that paying $20 really would guarantee me a product of higher quality, that would be one thing. But when we are paying full retail price for OCR errors a third-grader could catch? Sorry, but as long as we live with that reality, the “value of the content” isn’t really going to enter into the debate.

    Apologies for the occassional typo; I don’t have access to a propermcomputer right now and the auto-correct on iPad ocassionally messes things up even when intrynreally hard to check for them 🙂

  11. Joanna,
    I agree that the best choice is to not sell the book, when the sales won’t yield enough revenue to cover the cost of producing a good copy IF that won’t lead to a rise in piracy. And, franklly, I think that even if it does mean that some people get a little more comfortable with doing something inherently damaging to our intellectual ecology, it’s still worth holding low quality ebooks off of the market.

    But, Joanna, you’re forgetting the fact that most of the money from an Amazon ebook sale does NOT ever get to the publisher. Of your $8.80, the publisher would receive $3.08. Then the author would get $0.77 of that, leaving $2.31 per copy to cover the conversion and proofing costs, as well as marketing, overhead, and maybe a profit.

    Of course, if the publisher were to shift from the higher priced model to Amazon’s 70% model, giving up a hefty slice of control along the way, then the publisher gets $6.16, of which the author gets $1.54 per copy, leaving $4.62 per copy to cover conversion, etc. Given the other numbers I used earlier, it’s not a lot for books that usually sell at most a couple of hundred copies per format.

    You have just proven that you’re either a troll or you’re getting over-excited by the fact that we’re disagreeing with you. I don’t intend to answer your future assertions, but this should not be taken in any way as accepting your allegations, or as lack of ability to refute them.

  12. @Sherri,
    Volunteer organizations can do things which wouldn’t be ethical for a for-profit outfit. I suspect that you didn’t consider this aspect, but your suggestion would require that we pay people less than a third of a living wage to work on something that would then be sold commercially.

    I can’t think that it’s right, even if it did work.

  13. No, Marion, I did consider that aspect. Whether it’s right or not, I suspect that is what will happen, because the market simply can’t sustain the costs you’re claiming for proofreading. If the big publishers aren’t willing to do it, smaller publishers will come in and eat their lunch doing it. You probably wouldn’t even hire people; you’d use something like Mechanical Turk.

    We do pay people less than a third of a living wage to work on something sold commercially all the time. It’s called freelancing or contracting when it’s done here, and outsourcing when it’s done elsewhere. Such is life in a market-based economy; we can discuss the merits of other economic systems, but it’s really outside the scope of this discussion.

    My point is, and I think the point Howard is trying to make in a less polite manner is, that it is possible to get proofreading done in ways other than the way publishing has always done it, and to get it done more cheaply. Many things about the current model of publishing are based on there being very high barriers to entry: it was very costly to enter the market to compete with the big publishers. Digital removes those barriers, and if the big publishers don’t recognize that they’re suddenly competing in a different world, they truly are doomed.

  14. One problem is that the old-line publishers are being castigated for *not* getting their back-list paperbacks into e-book format pronto. They feel pressured to do so, but profitability is very unlikely.

    So I guess that points to one possibility: simply don’t buy e-books of back-list titles. They’re probably not of the same quality as e-books of current titles. Then you won’t see the scan-related typos.

    As for how fast proofreading can be done, I’ve occasionally contributed my time to the Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreading project. I’m pretty good at that sort of thing, but it takes me probably 5 minutes per page. Maybe only a couple of minutes if I’m doing a P1->P1 step, where the book has already been proofed once. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. I’ll also note that PGDP uses 3 passes of proofing, then 2 passes of formatting, followed by 2 passes through post-processing (turning the text into an e-book), and optionally 1 full-book QA/review pass. It’s not just one quickie line-edit scan over the text.

  15. @Sherri,
    The rates I quoted WERE for free-lancers. If they were on-staff at a big house, then they’d get less, because they’d get work all day, rather than having to allow for time hunting for work.

    What can be automated, obviously should be, but I think most people in the book business, and I’m including authors, and booksellers here, would rather go flip burgers than ride to profit by reducing valuable and skilled workers to penury.

    If there are automated systems that do an adequate job, and spellcheckers and grammar bots don’t yet, then I’d love to know about these alternative tools. If you actually know of one that works, someone out there, please pitch in!

    Frankly, the only one I’ve seen in action is an author or a mom-and-pop shop publisher putting in a LOT of uncompensated time. And that’s obviously not a sustainable model for long for those people, or for large numbers of titles for the world at large.

  16. Mechanical Turk is not an automated process. It’s a process for acquiring and doing cheap, well-defined tasks. It’s just one I’m familiar with; I’m sure there are others.

    I’m not making a value judgment about whether it is a good thing that proofreaders might not be able to make a living wage. I’m just pointing out the obvious: if it costs more to produce the product than people are willing to pay, costs will have to be reduced. Was it a good thing that my grandfather used to have a small dairy farm but it was not possible for the next generation to do the same? Depends on what you feel about the cost of milk.

  17. Mechanical Turk, as I’m familiar with the term, is simply a way to distance the corporation from the fact that it’s paying abusively low amounts for the work. It doesn’t make it easier, or faster, or better. It simply bids the price down regardless of the human cost resulting from pushing that cost so low. It’s not a productivity enhancer, but a profit enhancer.

    Family farmers were crowded out by corporations that could invest in machinery that was productivity enhancing — making large fixed cost investments spread over many thousands of acres, and enabling huge cuts in labor usage. That’s a very different situation.

    Proofreading is a tiny portion of the cost of any ebook that sells reasonable commercial quantities. And so, for ebooks that sell tens of thousands of copies (front-list fiction, and front-list trade non-fiction, primarily, on the Kindle, and the very most popular ones on the iBookstore and on the Nook), the cost of producing an edition isn’t the reason for charging more than 50 to 75% of the then current print price.

    But for BACKLIST books, that were converted long after they’d finished their first rush of print sales, there won’t ever be a commercial sales volume. The choices there are:
    –Don’t do it, and cede these titles to the pirates for ever and ever, amen. (Which causes toothgrinding in most publishers.)
    –Do it right and charge what the thing costs (and get slammed for ridiculous prices).
    –Do it cheaply, and let the consumer get what they’re paying for. Nothing much.

    NB: the expensive but bad job on a big book in a popular format (Kindle, iBook or Nook) is NOT included in the above. That’s just shoddy publishing, and the people who could do a good job within the financial constraints, but don’t, are surely going to brand their books in a way that they’d rather not.

    I suggest you pay attention to which publishers regularly engage in such abuses, and avoid them.

  18. Joanna, we should all be able to agree that the book you purchased is a defective product. With the errors you described it’s not unfortunate, it’s not frustrating, it’s inexcusable and unacceptable. The quality control failed. Any industry has defective products though and it’s how it’s handled that matters. You have to admit it’s defective, you have to take ownership of the problem, you have to remove the defective product from the shelves, you have to find the root cause of the problem, you have to fix the processes that failed. You have to demonstrate you fixed it.

    I don’t expect perfection and I recognize there will always be some errors in published books but how the industry handles these types of gross problems is a demonstration of a failure of the industry. There is finger pointing. There are attempts to justify it. There is blaming the customer. Worst of all the defective product continues to be sold. My question to you is after you brought the defective product to the attention of the vendor, did they acknowledge the product was defective, refund your money and then continue to sell it to other unsuspecting consumers?

  19. Kobo did refund my money very promptly. The book does remain for sale 🙂

    Someone in another comment thread suggested that the publishing industry might benefit from implementing versions as the software industry does. That way, if a book does have errors and someone reports them (a handy ‘report an error’ button on the book’s page would facilitate this) it could be swiftly fixed and customers could re-download a new version free of charge. You could crowd-source out the proof-reading 🙂

  20. Bob W:
    Yes, the book was defective. And if it’s a book that will sell a lot of copies, it should have been fixed before release, and should certainly be fixed later.

    If, however, it’s a book that was released last year or earlier, and the bloom is off of the rose, then the only fiscally responsible solution would be to pull it from distribution permanently. I’m not sure that this is exactly what you had in mind.

    The crowd-sourcing would reduce the cost of perfecting the proofing, but doing a new version, or even correcting the error at the level of the html and then uploading it again, aren’t completely cost free. Figure it will take an hour or so, to pull the files from memory, find the right format (remember not all epubs are the same, just for one example), find the right location in the file, fix it, and then save, upload, and put the corrected version back in storage.

    If the book is still selling a dozen copies or so every month, it’s worth doing. Otherwise, I think you’re back to yanking it permanently.

    At that point, you have to think about what’s better: having an imperfect book out there or not having it available at all.

    There are no perfect solutions to complex situations. The old saw about “simple, obvious and WRONG” is a cliche for a reason.

  21. Marion, there’s a fourth option for back-list titles — although from the publishers’ point of view, it’s probably about the same as the first option. They can revert the e-book rights back to the copyright holder, who can then e-publish as they see fit (or not e-publish).

    I’m not convinced that this fourth option solves anything as far as quality of back-list titles.

  22. @Doug:
    You are, of course, right. They can revert the rights, and probably will.

    Then the author can try to issue the ebooks, and because it isn’t as easy as it looks, you’ll find all sorts of things happening. But they’ll probably hang in there and try to make it a clean copy, not noticing the hidden cost of their own time.

  23. Hi Marion,

    I’m sure that you understand what your processes cost to product a quality product. If the cost is more then your projected sales then you’re saying that you consider it to be a liability and not an asset. Dump it. Revert the rights back to the author. The answer shouldn’t be to throw out a low quality product and see how many suckers you can get to pay for it.

    I fully expect publishers to experiment with less expensive processes or subcontracting pieces to third parties. With process changes the resulting product might not meet quality standards. When that happens I would expect the publisher to fix it and produce a quality product even if it means losing money on that particular item. It is a risk that should have been recognized with the process change. It should be about being fiscally responsible to the brand of the publisher and author and not about being fiscally responsible to an individual title.

    I don’t expect perfection but I do expect a quality standard that the publisher and reseller will stand behind it. I’m not seeing that.

  24. @Bob W,
    I agree with you. I don’t know how many of the comments on the earlier post you read, but I am not defending the production of substandard works. Personally, I would just not issue an ebook of something that’s only going to sell a few dozen copies in any given e-format. Nor do I generally advise a client to issue anything less than a solid, well-produced book, in any format.

    On the other hand, I also understand why publishers are choosing to do so. There are a lot of complexities to this decision, and as long-winded as I’ve been, they still are more than really fit into a blog comment, or even one of my own blog posts.

    As for process change, that’s not simple either. Obviously, there’s nothing out there that can automate any of the steps of editing, and very little that’s of any assistance with proofing. I suspect that, as soon as the e-formats settle down a little, big publishers will pour some big bucks into getting better automated conversion tools, ones that don’t introduce nearly as many egregious problems as the current state of the art does.

    Having used some of the conversion tools available, and been deeply troubled by glitches, I know that there’s work to be done.

    But I’m not sure that we are talking about books from big publishers here. I heard the term Kobo earlier. And a lot of the material on Kobo and elsewhere is coming from authors who have gotten their backlist back, or from littler publishers.

    All bets are off when we’re talking about little presses. There are literally hundreds of thousands of them, and they may or may not know much about the processes and the likely costs and revenues. (I should know, I make MY revenues from helping them with financial and management advice and tools).

  25. @Marion — You wrote, “Obviously, there’s nothing out there that can automate any of the steps of editing . . .”

    This is not quite accurate. In the very broadest sense, it is accurate, but there are, in fact, some micro aspects of editing that can be automated and are automated. I know this because I have developed a set of Word macros called EditTools (see for information) that are designed specifically to help editors automate certain processes and to minimize errors of inconsistency. My EditTools is not the only macro automation available.

    Mechanical processes are subject to automation, which is what macros do. The problem with automating editorial tasks is that much of editing is not mechanical but discretionary, requiring analysis and decision making, which cannot be readily automated. And it is impossible to automate to decision making that is inherent with homonyms, although one can automate aids to identifying potential homonym pitfalls.

    Automating proofing, however, remains elusive.

  26. So older books should be worth less because old equals cheap? I guess that means “The Stand” ought to be pretty cheap. Except it’s one of those Stephen King books you said that you’d pay more for. Hmmmm.

    They should be cheaper because they were paperbacks? Doesn’t *everything* get into paperback sooner or later?

    It’s also kind of ironic that in your rant about how publishers ought to fix typos, you produce typo-riddled gibberish and blame it on your iPad. Go back and re-read and fix the typos? Nah, can’t be arsed.

    (This comment was produced on an iPhone.)

  27. DensityDuck, I do think it should be cheaper if the book is older and in paper. I don’t think readers should be asked to pay more for an ebook than for the lowest-priced paper edition when publishers themselves admit that the paper accounts for 10-20% of the price. I might pay more for ‘The Stand’ than I would for an idie book by an unknown to me author, but that still doesn’t mean I think it’s worth $20 when the paperback is six bucks. Everything (nearly) does get put into paperback sooner or later, yes. But then the ebook price should drop to reflect that the paperback is now available.

    As for the typos, I do have a devil of a time with iPad autocorrect. And I did email Paul about it immediately after posting. He has not gotten to it yet, I’d guess. But if there is another way to correct those errors myself, please enlighten me and I’ll happily do it. It has nothing to do with being ‘arsed’ or not. It has to do with me not being able to go in myself and fix it, that I know of, so am waiting for assistance on it. At any rate, *I* am not charging people $10 to read it and publishers are; there is the the difference.

  28. marion wrote:

    You have just proven that you’re either a troll or you’re getting over-excited by the fact that we’re disagreeing with you. I don’t intend to answer your future assertions, but this should not be taken in any way as accepting your allegations, or as lack of ability to refute them.”

    I really find that a deeply offensive and groundless personal attack. I have never attacked you. I have only ever criticised comments and opinions. I have commented on the spurious claims made by insider publishers about costs and I have good grounds for those claims. I have decades of business experience and colleagues within and close to the industry. I have asserted cost opinions based on experience and research.

    You have not responded with any counter arguments and you admit you made errors in your own numbers. Your willingness now to launch this personal attack is something that contributors to this web site have never indulged in in the more than 15 months I have been a regular commenter. It is an unfortunate day for this site in my view.

  29. @Rich,
    I was perhaps over-generalizing. I know that there are some things that can be automated, but the ones that make the biggest difference are exactly the ones you were discussing — those that require human judgment.

    RH, you say? Well, assuming that the book is front-list, and not deep back-list, I can’t think of a single explanation for what happened. And if it was deep enough in the backlist that they don’t think it is worth fixing, I would think that reverting electronic rights and going their merry way would have been a better option.

    @Density Duck,
    Yes, older books are worth less, by convention. There are two economically sound reasons for this: The older a book, the more likely that the fixed costs of production have already been recovered, so that the cost of each new copy is simply the variable costs (royalties, distribution, and printing, for printed books).

    Also, those who most want the book, and to whom it has the greatest value, will pay a higher price. They buy the initial copies (usually hb), at the highest price. Then we all follow a traditional supply and demand graph down, with less expensive editions, and more purchasers.

    In this way, as many desires and needs as possible are satisfied. Most industries have some sort of similar strategy.

  30. Joanna posted: “As for the typos, I do have a devil of a time with iPad autocorrect. And I did email Paul about it immediately after posting. He has not gotten to it yet, I’d guess.
    … At any rate, *I* am not charging people $10 to read it and publishers are; there is the the difference.”

    But what if Paul charged you $20 to correct the typos? You would probably say ‘Forget it. It’s not worth it.’

    This situation is what authors and publishers are facing only with expenses in the hundreds (thousands?) of dollars and sales expected to be a few dozen.

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