5 Real Reasons Why Books are So Expensive in 2022

From My Reading World:

If you’re an avid reader, you will, of course, know how expensive books are. Have you ever wondered why they are so expensive?

. . . .

Books are expensive because of the rising cost of printing on paper, royalties, the economy of scale, return policy, and transit costs.

. . . .

What’s the average price of a book?

An average-sized book can range anywhere from $14-$18. While this might seem affordable but when you’re an avid reader, the numbers quickly add up. It means that it will become difficult for you to read multiple books throughout the month.

I will now go into the details of why these books are so expensive.

Five reasons why books are so expensive now

Let me now highlight the reasons why books have become so expensive.

1. Cost of printing and paper

Physical resources needed to print a book like printing machine, paper, and so on are increasing in price consistently. Due to the same, the cost of the books is also increasing.

The problem is that the cost of these resources is increasing at a higher rate than inflation. It is the primary reason why books are so expensive.

2. Royalties

Publishers have to pay royalties to authors as well. Publishers and authors have to incur marketing expenses as well. As the author becomes more famous, the royalties of the author increase as well.

It, in turn, increases the price of the book as well.

3. Economy of scale

You might be thinking, shouldn’t books be more affordable because of the economy of scale?

The problem is that economy of scale works in the opposite direction for books. The number of avid readers is decreasing day by day. That is why; the sale of books is decreasing in terms of copies.

With the lower copies being sold, the price of the books is undoubtedly bound to increase. That is what is happening.

Link to the rest at My Reading World

PG notes that he doesn’t always agree with items he posts on TPV.

15 thoughts on “5 Real Reasons Why Books are So Expensive in 2022”

    • $5.48 in NY as of May 6, 2022.
      $6.81 in California.
      https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pri_gnd_dcus_sca_w.htm

      And since pbooks come with national prices printed on the cover they have to cover the highest distribution cost.

      If they actually understood the world the’re living, the publishers would price them for $9 a gallon.

      (Still 25% to go before the hibernating shale guys get back online. Figure $150 a barrel peak from today’s $120. The saving grace is China’s withering economy.)

      Of course, if tbey understood the world they would be stampeding to ebooks.

  1. Now do e-books.
    Methinks they’re a bit off in their assumptions.
    How do they justify why electronic books which have no printing costs also keep going up?
    Authors are getting higher royalties? Every contract I’ve read about on TPV and elsewhere seems to indicate the exact opposite – lower royalties, harsher contract terms, and less support from the publishers to the author. Maybe there are some who are getting higher rates, but I think this is an argument with little basis in fact for most authors.
    Finally, if the number of readers is decreasing, increasing the price of the product will only serve to decrease the number of readers further.
    The big boys can price themselves out of existence; indies will just continue fair pricing and keep on keeping on.

    • How do they justify why electronic books which have no printing costs also keep going up?

      They don’t have to justify anything. Justify to whom? They don’t even bother. Publishers look at their total revenue. When expenses go up, publishers set prices on all their offerings to maximize profits. If they exempted eBooks, and only increased the price of printed books, they would price print out of the market. A publisher’s ebooks, print books, and audio books are not separate companies.

      Now, watch to see if independents increase prices. I suspect they will jump at an opportunity to make more money. Whatever prices independents charge will be called fair.

      • If I were to bet, I’d bet against that.
        Indies have had ample price cover for over a decade and indie prices didn’t go up with Agency part Deux. Because Indies don’t price to tradpub but to the Indies in their genre.

        And unlike tradpub the accept the reality of price elasticity, which says that inflation or not, raising prices in a recesion is suicidal.

        They price to *their* growing market, not tradpub’s fading market. Their pricing model is pricing to maximize total revenue, not per unit revenue, like the BPHs. Different business model. More durable because it is ebook first and less cost dependent.

        As a corollary, tradpub sales will inevitably decline over the coming years, not just while the stagflation lasts. Indies won’t suffer as much and might even grow a bit. But what I expect to best weather the “storm” is KU.

        Finally, while Amazon allows changing on the fly, competidors aren’t as forgiving. Who bells that cat? Who bets higher prices won’t mean lower sales for tbem and more for everybody who doesnn’t?

        • I absolutely grant the recession exemption. If maxing revenue means lowering prices, I expect independents to lower

          But, if maximizing revenue for independents means raising prices, then I expect them to act just like anyone else. Raise them.

          More interesting is the suggested notion that if big publishers disappear, independents will maintain fair prices. I don’t really know what a fair price is. But, it sounds virtuous.

          And who bets on higher prices? I did. It was so easy. Before Select debuted on Amazon, I priced at X on Amazon and increased price to 2X on B&N and Apple. B&N and Apple volume didn’t change. (Don’t like my sample size?)

          Alas, Select and the free book bonanza came along, and I had to choose between cash on Select or economic exploration going wide.

          • User expectations are a powerful force.
            Readers are used to a certain price point in their genre and take note when a title diverges.

            Indie price increases? If we go through a full four years of stagflation again, it will reset expectations. To a point. And the readers will grudgingly adapt to say an extra buck. But not to a massive increase, say a doubling.

            As for the BPHs they’re not going anywhere as long as they squat on hundreds of thousands of copyrights. But their impact on indies is about the same as DC COMICS and Marvel on manga. (The converse is a different story.) They exist in the same nebulous space but the dynamics and economics of both have diverged to the point there is little interaction.

            Specifically, Indie book readers don’t do comparos with legacy tradpub authors. They understand that King and his peers won’t be found at Indie prices and that Indies trying to justify King prices aren’t worth a second look. Think Honda vs Tesla. Or Honda vs Ferrari. Technically the same product but no rational person cross-shops an ACCORD with a Lamborghini. Lots of similar pairings.

              • It’s not about absolute pricing but *relative* pricing.
                What is going to happen to the first Indie to jack up their price by 25% when nobody else does?

                The “standard” indie ebook prices for *each* genre weren’t set by fiat or collusion: they were an emergent result of market forces. Remember how APub started at $8.99?
                Good books, sales not quite. So Amazon tried different prices until the market told them the price readers thought appropriate. $4.99.

                Over the years, there’s been plenty of authors trying different prices. Nothing stops it except market forces. But the baselines remain. $3, $4, $5 depending on genre.

                Standard economics says that sales go down as price goes up. The trick is making more from the price hike than the revenue lost from lost sales. The BPHs can afford to do it because (if we believe their narrative) 80% of their gross comes from pbooks and their control of authors stems from their control over pbook distribution, especially to B&M. And because their customers are used to the higher baseline.

                The Indie market has shown itself to be very price sensitive. And a $1 increase to a BPH book is 6% but 33% to a $3.00 indie book. How would King sell if his $16 book went to $24?

                Readers will notice.
                Different markets. Really.

                • Nobody will know who the first one to hike a price is. Those that do know will be a relatively small group.

                  Typically, when opportunity presents, the first hiker is joined by the second and third. Independent prices ride in bands now. There is a high and a low to the band. Prices initially will gravitate to the high end, then break through.

                  I agree about price elasticity. That is presumed in comments about maximizing profit.

                  And conventional wisdom on price hikes doesn’t do well in unconventional times. Look around. See prices for anything climbing? Now now are seeing substitutions as some goods with stable prices are being rejected in favor of other higher prices goods.

                  The reactions are so varied and numerous that nobody can sort it all out. But, Independents? They like money just as much as any publisher, and will be happy to jettison fair in favor of more.

                  Books aren’t special.

                • Indies have hiked their prices in the past often with a blog post to indicate why they did so.

                  Pam Uphoff and R.J. Blain are a couple of example I can think off. In both cases I was happy to keep paying there relatively cheap prices.

                  Sorry I disagree with the original article that trad pub are paying more royalties(in general) and that readership is dropping.

                  I believe the rational for trad pub ebooks costing so much is so they dont undercut themselves.

                  I know BAEN when they bundle ebooks are not allowed to undercut amazon prices.

  2. I got a real “contract writer for whom english is a second language” vibe off the article. Careful reasoning did not seem to be necessary.

  3. Publishers have to pay royalties to authors as well.

    OMG!

    Publishers and authors have to incur marketing expenses as well. As the author becomes more famous, the royalties of the author increase as well.

    OMG2!

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