Economics of Publishing – The Valley Floor?

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I have been reading Peter Meyers’ Breaking The Page and find it fascinating to see some of the ideas of how books may be “improved” in the future.  I have my own ideas about what could and should happen with eBooks, but he has clearly put a great deal of thought into it, and his free preview book is well worth reading.

Something that I find interesting though, is the economics of the particular moment we are in right now.  Once upon a time, publishing looked like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hBztGX-2i1M – a very time consuming and expensive process, to say the least. Self publishing back then was out of reach of anyone not independently wealthy.

In the future described by Meyers’ book, things will never be that expensive again, however, especially for certain kinds of books (reference books for instance), it may be possible to throw in all kinds of “extras” to make the books more useful and valuable for people.  That’s mostly a good thing, but it will likely cost more to produce those books. Even novels, which are currently the books that work the best on the Kindle and other dedicated eBook readers because of their nearly exclusive reliance on text, and linear structure, may have extras like timelines and character notes, even if they don’t go all in with videos, graphics, interactive charts and the like.

Compare that with Kindle formatting as it currently stands: at LiberWriter, we can format your book for just $50, and it will look as good as most books from the major publishers.  The open secret of eBook publishing right now is that there just isn’t that much leeway in what can be done with books, so the emphasis is mostly on making sure the important elements like a table of contents are in place, and not making any major mistakes.

That’s a pretty amazing state of affairs if you think about it.  Between formatting, a cover image, and some editing, it’s quite possible to put together a very professional looking book and publish it for several hundred dollars.  Put another way: given good writing, just several hundred dollars are the only thing between you and being pretty much indistinguishable from an eBook from a major publisher!  That’s very, very little, in the grand scheme of things.

The question is: will it last?  If it becomes possible to do more and more “fancy”  things with eBooks, production costs for the high end will go up, putting more distance between what the “pros” can afford, and what self-publishers can do without spending a lot of money.

What do you think?  Are we in a golden moment for self-publishers?

2 thoughts on “Economics of Publishing – The Valley Floor?

  1. I am watching more and more of my writer friends turning to s/p. They have walked away from their publishers. Some are encouraging me to produce my first myself. I am not techno savvie and also want paperback as well as ebook. I am learning each day their trials and tribulations on uploading etc..

    The world of self publishing has opened doors for many. Exciting times for writers.

  2. I agree, Glynis, I’m just wondering which direction it’ll go in the future. Right now, it costs *so* little to get the same treatment as any big publisher author on the Kindle, but the Kindle is a fairly simple device. With eReaders getting more complex, perhaps formatting costs will rise in the future too. We’ll do our best to prevent that, but we can only wait and see what the future holds!

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