There is probably nothing worse to a reader’s ears than the sound of books being pulped.
One could rationalize it away by saying, “At least they’re being recycled”, and this is a fair point.
But like many environmentalists asked in the 2000s, “Do you need to print that?”. This is a fair question.
I like a book in hand as much as the next person. In fact, I’ll take a print book over an e-book any day. The exception to this is whenever I’m on a long trip and realize that a tablet or e-reader weighs less than however many books I’d want to carry. However, I’m not the fastest reader in the world, and often one book will suffice for a five-hour plane or three-hour bus/train ride.
I’ve chosen to focus mainly on publishing on-line because the overhead is cheaper. In fact, it was dirt-cheap by comparison. It doesn’t mean that I won’t have any of my books printed. In fact, I will get printed up a limited print run of 25 for my first novel.
But to put things into perspective, here is a break-down of the costs associated with each model.
The initial print run of Boomerangs and Square Pegs cost $424 and some change (tax included), making the real cost $14.14 per book. Out of those 30 books, one copy will go to Library and Archives Canada (as per law), two copies to la Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (again, as per law), one to myself, and six others as gifts, leaving 20 copies to sell at $18 per.
You may ask yourself why I don’t simply get more copies printed. For starters, a 30-copy print-run is the minimum one can get, and it’s not all printers who will do this. Some printers won’t go below 100 copies. While the economy of scale kicks in at some point and the price per book goes way down, there’s still the problem of the overall cost. And then there’s storage: Where would one store all those books? Storage costs extra. Add it all up, and one can understand why publishing is a risk, even for major publishers. As I said before, publishers don’t have deep pockets.
By contrast, the overhead for on-line publishing is cheap. One pays for a domain name on an annual basis, as well as a monthly fee for a website. There are the setup and maintenance for on-line transactions, and that usually costs something. These are ongoing expenses.
Another ongoing expense may be for promotion or consultation. This depends on how much of this you want to do yourself. Having advice from someone who knows that part of the business may be a good investment. The cost of copyright ($50 Cdn) applies to the original work, the e-book and print book merely being versions of this. The ISBN (International Standard Book Number), needed to sell a book, is different according to the medium. The good news is that ISBNs are free in Canada and issued upon demand after copyright has been obtained. Copyright is a one-time expense.
Of course, any self-published work still needs a second opinion, a critical eye, and this too costs. This too is a one-time expense.
So? Do print books have a future? For sure! But for me, I’ll be limited by both budget and space.