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April 09, 2008


Tony Bowerman

Hmm - interesting idea, Gary. b

But surely the key question is what are the relative costs of pre-production compared to actual physical printing.

It's perhaps easy to underestimate the true costs in both time and effort as well as cash, of creating, laying out and designing a book. Even in e-form it's got to be right - and there are really no short cuts. The price difference is suddenly less apparent.

Or will standards drop to complete the circle?

Gary Smailes

As a publisher you have a better knowledge of the costs. However, if a company is employing staff to do the pre-production work, this becomes a fixed costs. By going on-line only you would remove the print costs of say 5000 books. This would make a publisher more likely to take a gamble. You would also save in the in costs of stocking the traditional sales outlets.

However, the key for me would be producing an internet space which those interested in your product would visit. If you produced the 'best' military history site on the web and also had say 100 e-book only titles for sale, you would only have to convert a small number of visitors into customers to be making a profit.

Gavin Robinson

Osprey and Pen & Sword are niche publishers, but it's a relatively large niche, and both seem to be able to keep a very wide range of titles in print. I bet their sales are huge compared to academic publishers like Ashgate who print monographs in runs of 500 and probably don't sell them all. I'd say Osprey are in a pretty strong position with their printed books because they're not particularly expensive and have outstanding illustrations which just wouldn't be as good on screen or printed off from a PDF.

On the other hand, I think that pre-production is often a red herring. It's something that academic publishers bring up against open access: publishing on the web might cost much less than printing but we'd still have to do the copy editing, typesetting and proofreading. Don't believe a word of it. Most of the recently published academic books I've bought have been full of very obvious typos. Publishers put authors under pressure to deliver files already in house style so they can save money on copy editing. Journals make authors do the proofing themselves (paying us no money, on top of the no money we get paid for writing the article!). I've just had to do this myself and all the mistakes I found had been put there by the copy editor! I think trying to get things perfect before publication is futile, and if it's going to be published on the web, unnecessary. Why not just let readers submit corrections as they find errors?

Gary Smailes

Academic publishing is just begging to go online for two reasons. The first is that the market is more open to a digital format. The second is that the market is pretty much static. Though a digital book would be cheaper, by reducing print costs the publisher would increase profits. This in turn would create more revenue to publish more title…
Think your point about reader copy edit is very valid. There is no reason way a publish can’t continually re-edit a book - look at the wiki model.

john smith

Interesting post, digitization made huge difference in publishing industry. As readers looking for the e-editions of publications, publishers are digitizing their publications and presenting through new technology mediums. Some publishers are using the services like http://www.pressmart.net to distribute their publications through new technology mediums. Publishers are generating more revenue by adopting the e-publishing technologies.

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