Definitely a good day at the Passive Voice, and Edward Robertson has a good one, too...
This (also via PV) is a really interesting comparison of e-books and the introduction of paperbacks during the Great Depression. What's fascinating to me is the fact that, just like e-books, paperbacks weren't just a new kind of book--they revolutionized the entire industry.
If paperbacks were going to succeed in America, they would need a new model. [Robert] De Graff [founder of Pocket Books], for his part, was well acquainted with the economics of books. He knew that printing costs were high because volumes were low—an average hardcover print run of 10,000 might cost 40 cents per copy. With only 500 bookstores in the U.S., most located in major cities, low demand was baked into the equation.
Fascinating, no? Since the 1990s, we've been moving back to that pre-1940s model of bookselling, with book sales moving back into bookstores and books getting more and more expensive. At Westercon, Greg Bear said that, in his opinion, there had been a Golden Age of publishing that dated from about the 1950s to the 1980s, when the industry really did work and could sell a lot of books. In my opinion, it's not a coincidence that this Golden Age happened at a time when books were inexpensive and widely available in all sorts of places.
Edward Robertson has a post for new writers. What I really like about it is his realism about initial sales, which will likely be extremely low if you are unknown (so, you know, plan accordingly), and his appreciation of the value of giveaways as a means of gathering feedback about your book's presentation.