The Economics of eBooks: What You Save, What You Stand to Gain

May 2002
by Rich Elwood

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Comparing eBooks with bound books in terms of costs and benefits is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. The solution to a successful eBook venture lies in recognizing how different they are.

Editorial & Prepress Savings

The most obvious difference between eBooks and bound books is the overall cost of getting them to their intended audience.

A publisher should not anticipate any significant cost advantage in the editorial phase of creating an eBook, since it doesn’t differ significantly from the editorial phase of bound-book production. But it should be noted that most eBooks are developed in tandem with bound books, with the result that publishers incur no additional editorial costs.

The first real difference between eBooks and bound books in the development chain comes directly thereafter. While the bound book will require typesetting, the eBook will require digital formatting, usually called “conversion.”

The cost of digitally formatting a typical 300-page eBook of professional quality is about $500 if the book’s text and images are available in some digital form–e.g., a word-processing or desktop publishing file. While this cost can be even lower if the digital formatting simply re-purposes existing data, the resulting eBook will usually suffer from poor typography and will be formatted inappropriately. For instance, chapter headings might not start on new pages. Hard line…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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