Why Are Ebooks So Expensive?

Ebooks have changed the way millions of people read. But it can be startling to discover how expensive ebooks can be — occasionally costing as much as 30% more than a hardcover book.

When people buy their first tablet or ereader, many assume that ebooks will be cheaper than print books because digital publishing eliminates a pile of costs: manufacturing, shipping, distribution, warehousing, and returns, to name a few.

On one message board, a reader named Judy described the sticker shock she experienced: “I am finding many popular books are more expensive to purchase the Kindle version than purchasing in paperback form. Shouldn’t ebooks be less considering the price of printing?”

It turns out that while digital publishing does eliminate a few costs, many of the most significant costs apply to both print books and ebooks. Some of these costs include editing, marketing, publicity, and cover design. They also include paying advances and royalties to the author of the book.

“The cost structure of a publisher is largely fixed so there’s no particular reason why the ebook should be cheaper than a print book,” analyst Benedict Evans tells the Sunday Times.

In addition, ebooks introduce several expenses that are new to digital publishing, according to an analysis by Michael Hyatt, the former chief executive of Thomas Nelson Publishers. These expenses include:

Formatting. Books must be digitized and formatted to work correctly on tablets and ereaders.

Quality assurance. The publisher must meticulously check each book to ensure that illustrations, footnotes, and pullquotes are presented properly.

Distribution. Digital distribution has eliminated the need for trucks or warehouses, but the publisher must still prepare the files for delivery to ebook retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple.

As a result, readers have been on the lookout for bestselling ebooks that are exceptions to the rule, such as Doubleday’s weeklong free giveaway of Dan Brown’s #1 bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code last year. To aid them in their search, these readers are turning to bestseller lists, online communities, and free alert services to ensure that they don’t miss out on the next free bestseller.




Disclaimer: The Book Insider is published by Pubmark Inc., which also owns BookBub.