Liars Club

why eBooks cost so much…

Keith R.A. DeCandido

by Keith DeCandido on April 12, 2012

in Uncommitted

This article by Nathan Bransford on CNet has been making the rounds of the Intarwubz today, and I’m kinda grateful. It’s reminding everyone that the primary cost of making a book isn’t in the physical creation of the object. Especially for mass-market publishers, who are producing in bulk, the per-unit cost of printing an actual book is negligible. The primary cost is for the content — which, one would argue, is the most important part anyhow, yes? When you buy a book, you’re not paying for a physical artifact, you’re paying for the writer’s work, the editor’s, designer’s, and cover artist’s work–the creative stuff, all of which is still there in an ebook.

(For small press publishers, it’s a whole ‘nother thing, because they’re not producing in bulk, so the per-unit cost of printing a book is considerably higher. But then, most small presses reflect that difference in eBook and print copies, as witnessed in my own recent small-press efforts, where the eBook is three or four bucks, while the trade paperback is fifteen.)

So when you complain that an eBook costs only slightly less than a print book, what you’re complaining about is that the people who actually made the important part of the book shouldn’t get as much of your money for doing the exact same work they’d be doing if it was in print.

If you don’t pay enough for the book to pay the writer a decent rate for writing it, it’s the death of professionalism. As readers, trust me, you don’t want that.


Keith R.A. DeCandido took his sweet time finally writing something for this blog, given that he joined the Liars Club in January 2011. He did the editorial work for Liar Liar, and also wrote the story “Under the King’s Bridge” for that anthology. Keith’s recent and upcoming work includes Goblin Precinct, the sequel to his high fantasy police procedurals Dragon Precinct and Unicorn Precinct; the Leverage novel The Zoo Job, based on the TNT TV series; -30-, with Steven Savile, the first story in the “Viral” series of thriller novellas; and “The Ballad of Big Charlie” in V-Wars, an anthology edited by fellow Liar Jonathan Maberry. Find out less at his web site, which is the gateway to his blog, his Facebook page, his Twitter feed (@KRADeC), his various podcasts, and lots more, including links to buy his most recent books.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen L. Syed April 13, 2012 at 8:12 am

This point is quite valid. As one of those people who does all the behind the scenes work, if I choose to sell our books for less, that is precisely my choice, but for people to demand that I lower my price on eBooks because their is no physical product is just silly. I wish some of the offending readers had the chance to sit at our desks for a day…oy!

Karen Syed

Ruth Heil April 13, 2012 at 8:41 am

Well said. The same is true for journalism and the purchase of newspapers. Where are we headed? To a day when all our information, stories, ideas, etc. are presented by volunteers who can only afford to slap something together in their spare time?

Donna Galanti April 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Absolutely! If people sat and thought of all that goes behind a creative product – its not just the delivery of it, its all that goes into its creation. If we lost the creative minds behind the products because we did not want to pay them for an online product – think of all the new ideas, inventions we would miss out on. Would it be Atlas Shrugged in the making? I wonder….

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