The costs of ebook production are higher than you might think

If you think producing ebooks is a cost-free affair, think again. For publishers, many of the same processes are needed as for print publication.


In response to my post yesterday on publishers and the profits from ebook sales, reader jenk1974 added the following comment:

I fail to understand how publishers can fail to make money from ebooks. Authors these days submit their books electronically. No typesetting, no printing, no spell checking, no grammar checking, no binding, no distribution costs etc. It is time that publishers climbed out of the 19th century and embraced this growing medium by offering ebooks at a realistic price, which has to be a fraction of the paper price.

Jenk1974 has some valid points in that for a straight ebook release, there are ought to be less expense in the production process. Since, I've been an author (as well as an editor and contributor) of multiple books (one of which was written exclusively for publication as an ebook), I thought I'd share some insights into why ebooks still require production costs regardless of whether they are being sold alongside a traditional print title or solely in electronic form.

First, it is true that most (maybe all, at this point) authors submit their work electronically. Historically, this has been done in Word (usually in a publisher-provided template), though there have been shifts to more collaborative, server/cloud based options at some publishing houses (things like SharePoint and Basecamp). In some cases, these options are available to the author, but in others they may be used solely by the editorial and production staff.

Even so, a copy-editing process is absolutely critical (and always will be) for things like spelling, grammar, adherence to style guides, correct use of formatting, proper use of tables, and appropriate insertion of images. This is needed both for general clean-up of the author's work and to ensure the work meets the publishers design and printing guidelines.

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