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How much should a book cost?

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How much should a book cost? I ask because I'm currently reading a 36-page black and white book which cost £14.99. Yes, you read it right - 36 pages. Don't get me wrong. It's worth every penny. It's a beautifully illustrated book on Dorset footpaths. But I know I can buy Wolf Hall for under £4 and that runs to nearly 700 pages. That's a halfpenny a page instead of 41p a page. 

 

My footpath book - Holloway by Macfarlane, Donwood and Richards - was originally printed as a limited edition of 277 copies and one would clearly expect to pay a premium price for one of those. But my £14.99 edition is a reprint by Faber & Faber. The paper is lightweight rather than art-paper quality and - horror of horrors - it appears to be perfect-bound rather than stitched. It looks 'nice' but lacks the sort of quality that shouts "I'm worth £14.99". 

 

At the end of the day, I bought the book; it was a topic that interested me and I was happy with handing over the cover price. It did intrigue me, however, how Faber decided on the price. Do they reason that this is a niche market and those specialists like me will pay the price, or are there other market forces at work?

 

And then there's the question of how much an ebook should cost. But that's probably a topic for a separate thread!

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That was some price!!!!! 

 

It's hard to answer the question as many factors are to be considered. Age of the book, format, genre, pages etc. 

As paperback are usually released some time after hardcovers, and are not as luxurious, it's not surprising that they are cheaper. They should be. 

 

Fiction tends to be the cheapest books. Even children books are more expensive. IMO, childrens books are THE most expensive, aren't they? So few pages, but often cost as much as a hardcover 500 page novel. 

 

A normal price for a paperback fiction novel in Sweden is about 45 Swedish Crowns (~ £4.45) if you order online. If you buy it in a book store, then the price is a bit higher, around 75 Swedish Crowns (~ £7.40). 

If you take a hardcover fiction, a newly released one, like the new Dan Brown book for instance, it will cost around £19.70 in Sweden. Maybe slightly more in book stores.

 

As a student, I know first hand that literature for school costs A LOT more. Often, one student literature book costs between £24.50 & £34.50. That's why I always copy what I need from the school library, as they have most of the books used for the courses.

 

So what do I think about it? The paperback fiction novels have great prices. The hardcover fiction are slightly too expensive for my taste. I would say between £10 - £15, depending on how old the print is, is more in my style. And student literature? Way too expensive!! And should be offered as paperback. ;)

Edited by emelee

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I'm guessing it's something to do with both being a niche market, where people will pay a higher price, and also setting a price high enough to cover associated overheads for a small print run. That's just my quick (I'm on my lunch break) answer for the time being.

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I suppose it varies a lot depending on where you buy from and the popularity of the book.

 

I recently visited an actual bookshop for the first time in ages and bought two newly published fiction paperbacks by popular authors and it cost me the best part of 30 pounds. I live in the Netherlands in an area with no local bookshop, and my closest has a very small English language section, these factors drive the prices ridiculously high.

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Here in the Netherlands in book shops books generally cost more than in the UK (or US). A new book can cost 15-30 euros (depending on whether it's a paperback or a hardcover and what kind of book). Many older books still cost quite some. Sometimes some older (paperback) books are cheaper and you find them for 5-10 euros (or more). Dutch books and translated books generally cost the same or more than their English counterparts. Even in Dutch online shops, the prices can be somewhat cheaper but it doesn't get as cheap as sometimes in the UK (ie. The Works doing a 3 for 5 pounds deal). Charity shops are an exception, those books are cheaper (they are second hand, usually between .50 cents and 1.50 euros).

 

Generally most Dutch book shops mainly have Dutch books or books translated into Dutch. Some shops have English books, though mainly certain genres. For example, you hardly see any science-fiction here (either Dutch or English).

 

I buy a lot of books at a Dutch book fair. The Dutch books (or translated into Dutch) can cost 5-10 euros (fiction, non-fiction costs more), the English paperbacks are generally 2.50 or 2.95 euros (some are between 0.99 - 3.95, bigger ones can cost a little bit more, ie. my Jane Austen omnibus). The savings are up to 90% of the shop retail price, they say. For anyone in the Netherlands I recommend going there, if there is one nearby you.

 

I also buy books from places such as Amazon or The Book Depository (sometimes bol.com, a Dutch online shop). Now and then I buy books from the charity shop. When I'm in the UK I always like to go into UK book shops or charity shops.

 

It makes sense that Dutch shops have higher prices, they have to pay for the shop's location and their staff and so on. With translated books (which I don't buy anymore) they also have to pay the translator. So in a way sometimes it makes sense, though other times I feel prices are quite steep. It happens now and then that a book I want to buy can only be found quite expensively, often I end up waiting or even not buying it at all (because I lost interest in the end).

 

Also for me personally, it matters to me how many pages a book has compared with the price. If a book has a lot of pages vs. the price, compared with not so many pages vs. the price, this influences me. I'm more likely to buy the first book. I'm certainly not saying I prefer quantity over quality as this isn't the case, however often it does influence me a little. Ie. I'm more likely to pay more for a book that has more pages compared with a book that doesn't have many pages.

 

I'm not an economist nor do I fully understand economics (only some parts of it).

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In the end I suppose it comes down to the difference between what a book costs and what a book is worth.

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And of course what it costs to produce and write. A guide to self publishing that I have states that the cover price of a book should be at least twice what it costs to actually produce - probably more than that. Writers and publishers like everyone else after all have to live and pay the bills. Bear in mind as I say this that book stores and online retailers always ask for a minimum 40 percent discount off the cover price before they will even consider stocking a book. Some demand as high as 60 percent.   

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I suppose like anything else it comes down to a matter of supply and demand. The more people are willing to pay, the more something can cost. I do think though that as sites like Amazon are selling books cheaper and cheaper, high street book shops are going to have to lower their prices if they want to compete over time.

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Hi,I only started reading again in the past few years when I got a kindle but I have always preferred the physical copies.

I picked up loads of books on the kindle for around £1-£3 and was amazed at how cheap digital copies were.(gave the kindle away to my mum recently)

I have also purchased a few brand new hardcovers from amazon a couple of years ago and they come in at around the  £10-£15 mark which I think is quite expensive for a hb but I have also  noticed that some new paperback books on amazon are priced in the region of £10-£20 and was wondering why so bloody expensive.....I thought paperbacks's should be cheap as chips eg £1-£5.

I now purchase 2nd hand Hardcovers and try to pay £5 max.

Why are new books so expensive and does anybody know the production costs involved and what profits publishers and authors get?

BTW What do you think brand new Hardcovers and brand new Paperbacks should be priced at and what price would encourage you to buy more new books?

 

 

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Thanks Chesil. I can only reiterate what I said earlier that a book should cost roughly twice what it costs to produce, plus of course with e-books VAT. If a book then costs £5 to produce then it should sell for £10, likewise if a book costs £1 to produce it should sell for £2. Yes, market forces do come into it, and there is definitely a £5 price barrier beyond which many will not buy a book, but if that is what a book costs to produce then I guess those people won't be able to buy it. That's the way it is. Books, like anything else should not be sold at a loss and all those involved in the production process, and there are many including but not limited to editors, proof readers, cover designers, printers, and of course the author, deserve to be paid and earn a living. You also have to consider the costs of shipping and marketing plus of course distribution and retailer discounts - most book stores expect 40 percent discount plus sale or return. All of this has to come out of the books profits, which is why the cover price does have to be at the very least double the cost of production. Anything less is just not economically viable.    

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Its not just manufacturing cost though - its staff costs too. Editor, proofer, anyone else at the publishing company...all need paying (and I know proofers are generally freelance now; just factoring in their cost too).

 

Mind you, I was talking to a used bookshop owner a few months ago and he said that most "mass market" biogs and suchlike are rarely even proofed now. And they're churned out by the thousands, as its cheaper for them to do that, then pulp any unsold. Seems like madness but I guess the same factors and business practices from other industries make their way into publishing to hammer down costs too.

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Indeed Filip, there are many people involved in the production and marketing of books - the author, the commissioning editor and their marketing team, website designers, proof readers, editors, cover designers, printers, the people who work for Nielson registering ISBN's, distributors, book sellers, the list goes on.  

 

Somehow I very much doubt that what your used book seller said is true. It would not be in a publishers interest to act like this, not even bothering to proof the books they publish. It would tarnish their reputation very quickly and lead to a large decrease in sales. It is true though that like the rest of us, publishers need to cut their costs. Most of them do this unfortunately by cutting authors advances and royalties, which is another reason for the increase in self publishing. Authors can very often earn far more this way - but of course they have to work a lot harder.  

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On 6/3/2017 at 5:04 PM, Talisman said:

Indeed Filip, there are many people involved in the production and marketing of books - the author, the commissioning editor and their marketing team, website designers, proof readers, editors, cover designers, printers, the people who work for Nielson registering ISBN's, distributors, book sellers, the list goes on.  

 

The retailers also have to cover their overheads too though, which will include staff costs, property rental, business taxes, insurance etc., and if it's a chain like Waterstone's, they'll also have head office costs like any other business e.g. pensions, human resources, accountants and the like, so you have to factor in those as well when accounting for their costs.  Although I agree that the author does deserve to be paid for their work, they are just one of potentially hundreds of people involved in the book between their writing it and the reader buying it.

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All of this is true. I do not dispute any of it. There is as you say a very large chain in the production, marketing, distribution and sale of a book - a lot of authors do not fully understand the supply chain in particular and how it works. I guess they don't need to if they have a publisher who takes care of all of that for them.   

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I sympathise, but I guess it's like I said, supply and demand and the need to cover production and marketing costs.

 

Are any of the books you need available perhaps second hand?

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