Passive Guy is riling me up again: Consumers are upset and "confused" about e-book pricing! For some strange reason, those silly consumers think that buying tons of paper, running a massive printing press, and shipping enormous quantities of books all over the country costs money!
The mendacity of claiming that e-books and paper books cost about the same to make is what gets to me. These cost claims are bald-faced lies--no one with any background in the industry believes them, and the people making them think the general public is a bunch of drooling idiots who will believe anything they are told.
Just so you know: Before it became strategically important to pretend that e-books cost no less to make than paper books, the rule-of-thumb estimate was that the editorial part of making a book (writing, editing, copy editing) accounted for a whopping 10% of costs. In fact, it was such a small piece of the costs that oftentimes a company would allow all that to happen before deciding whether or not to publish the book. That was really annoying if you were in editorial, because you'd do all this work on a book, and once it was finished, they'd scrap it, but that was how the finances worked.
Now, according to a lying piece of Penguin shit, editorial accounts for 90% of costs! Amazing!
I have linked to this before (warning: if you don't like the language in this post, you won't like the imagery in that one), but now I am going to quote extensively from Dean Wesley Smith's post comparing the costs of Pulphouse Publishing, his old traditional publishing company, to those of WMG Publishing today:
Not only is this new world faster by factors of a hundred or more, but the production costs don’t even come close to what was needed in 1990 to put out a book.
For example, from 1989 to 1992 we did a series of books at Pulphouse called “Author’s Choice Monthly.” The series let each author pick five or six stories, around 30,000 words, for a collection. We did one per month, sold them both in limited hardback form and unlimited trade paper form. We used the old warehouse method, meaning we had to guess ahead how many to have printed and bound. We did our own printing, then we had to haul the printed books an hour north to either a perfect bindery or the hardback bindery. Then we had to pick them up when done and bring them back to the office to be unloaded, packed, and shipped to stores and customers.
Let me put it this way as to costs. The price of the gas (for the 60 mile one way drive north to the binderies and back in 1990) for the van we used IS MORE than what WMG Publishing pays right now to put a collection of mine or Kris’s into electronic and trade paper edition.
That’s right, just the gas (in 1990 money) for 240 miles is more than I spend now for everything needed to get a collection into print.
(So, yeah, Smith's wife knows what she's talking about when she calls this cost claim "bullshit.")
Let's put it this way: I make more money selling a $3 e-book of Trang on Amazon than I do selling a $12 paper book there.
And if you think it's oh-so-different for a large corporation, remember that they are reporting higher profits as well.