Ask Bethany House: Why Are Ebooks So Expensive?

When I was a little girl and someone asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I never would have said, “I want to work at a publishing company.” Not because I didn’t love books and stories—”librarian” and “writer” always made my list of top potential future careers—but because I didn’t really think about the fact that someone somewhere had to get those books into my chubby elementary-school hands. I had no idea what that process would look like.

The publishing world can be a bit of a mystery to anyone not living in it on a daily basis. What actually goes on in there? You can see the authors’ perspective from their Facebook posts about pitches and galleys and ARCs. And maybe you have a vague idea of what goes on in the editing process. But chances are, you have questions about what we do here at Bethany House.

Last month, on Facebook, we asked readers to submit some of those questions, and we’ll be addressing some of them over the next year in these “Ask Bethany House” posts. Here’s our first one.

I will say, ereader lovers, that I'm a print girl, myself. But I totally understand the appeal of ebooks!

I will say, ereader lovers, that I’m a print girl, myself. But I totally understand the appeal of ebooks!

Q: Since it doesn’t cost money to “print” an ebook, why are ebooks the same price as regular paperback books when the book releases?

A: This is a great question. Let me first clear something up that you might not realize: when you buy a book, not much of the cost is for the actual paper-and-ink-and-binding, physical part of the book.

The very first covers of The Secret of Pembrooke Park! I'm excited for you readers to find it on shelves soon!

Although the printing process is really cool—visit this post for more on that!

So what are you really paying for when you buy a book? Lots of things. You’re paying the author who wrote the story within those pages. You’re paying the designer who did the artwork on the cover (and rented the costumes and hired models and ran a photoshoot). You’re paying the editor who spent hours making sure the novel is as perfect as it could possibly be. You’re paying for the entire system that typesets the interior pages, distributes books to stores, and does a million other little things that you probably didn’t even realize needed to happen.

Essentially, when you buy a book, you’re not paying for a product, you’re paying for a service—from all of the people who worked together to get the book to you in its final form. Yes, you’re paying for a great story, but you’re also paying for all of the steps it took to get that story to you. And that cost is exactly the same whether you read the book in paperback form or in ebook form. That’s why the prices are the same at release.

Do you have any questions about the world of publishing? (This can include design, editing, marketing, whether we secretly have favorite books from other CBA publishing companies, or anything else you’ve always wondered about but weren’t sure who to ask.) Submit them to our Ask Bethany House survey, and we might answer them in a future blog post!

21 thoughts on “Ask Bethany House: Why Are Ebooks So Expensive?

  1. This is brilliant, Amy. I’ve had a lot of people ask me that same question and I don’t think I’ve ever explained it all that well. Now I can just point people to this post. 🙂

    • Perfect. Glad it can be useful! Who knows? If I keep answering questions long enough, I might address every question anyone could ever ask. (Okay, maybe not. But it’s a dream.)

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  2. I’ve recently met a few authors on a trip I took to Scotland and have the privilege of becoming friends with them. One writer released her second book in her series and is in the process of finishing the third book. She has let many friends in the behind the scenes of getting a book out. Who knew so much went into the process of just the cover? Amazing. Brings a whole new perspective to the books and makes them come alive. She has also let us in on the process she goes through to make her idea come to life in her story. So much research involved. So many tiny details one just doesn’t think about. Thank you for this other insight.

    • Hi LouAnn! That’s very true. Makes you appreciate the books so much more, knowing how many people contributed to them, and how many hours they all put in, doesn’t it?

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  3. “not much of the cost is for the actual paper-and-ink-and-binding, physical part of the book.”

    I’m sure all the people employed in the paper, printing, and trucking industries will be thrilled to hear you think they are worthless.

    This is a fluff piece. You are arguing that the entire process of printing/processing/distributing a book costs NOTHING out of the cost of a book. We already know all the other cost associated with a book, but you are writing off an entire sub-industry to justify unnecessarily high costs.

    Considering that excess books are generally disposed by ripping the covers off, *because publishers don’t want to pay return shipping on the entire book*, your “not much” argument is bogus, and you know it.

    An ebook SHOULD cost less than a printed book, the fact that it doesn’t simply means you are gouging buyers on ebook sales. Even if it is “not much”, it isn’t ZERO.

  4. Pingback: Ask Bethany House: Can You Give Me a Free Book? | Bethany House Fiction

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