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I wonder how much it costs a publisher to publish a book (textbook or research book).

I'm looking for referenced numbers, not guesses. I am mostly interested in the fields of computer science and maths, and English-speaking venues, but I am curious about other fields and languages as well.

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    I am not an expert here, but I suspect that the only reasonably succinct general answer will be "It depends." At one extreme there are print on demand publishing companies which are set up to print N copies of any text so long as you will buy N copies, and you would have to think that their cost is less than or equal to the price you pay for those N copies, thus for instance probably $100 or less in some cases. At the other extreme publishers of a new edition of a best-selling textbook will pay whatever they think will net them more money, so surely more than $100K in some cases. – Pete L. Clark Mar 11 '16 at 15:50
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    So you want as an answer a statistical analysis of how much publishers spend on textbooks? This seems too ambitious for someone to make on demand, but perhaps it already exists in the literature. – Pete L. Clark Mar 11 '16 at 15:57
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    Hmm, maybe I misunderstood the question. I was interpreting "a book" as a product being sold by the publisher. Based on the answer, it seems that it means "each copy of a book." – Pete L. Clark Mar 11 '16 at 17:36
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    This question is extremely vague as written. Is it asking how much it costs a publisher to bring a book to market, i.e., the costs of editing, design, illustrations, and so on? Is it asking the incremental cost of paper, printing, and binding (PPB) for one copy? Are we including the cost of setting up a print run, which by far the greatest cost involved in physical production by traditional printing? And all of these numbers vary enormously. PPB is approximately four times greater for a four-color book. A freshman physics textbook has perhaps 500 pieces of line art. A graduate math text... – Ben Crowell Mar 11 '16 at 19:08
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    @FranckDernoncourt: I'm interested in all types of costs. If that's too much for one question I can ask several ones. I think that would be a good idea. – Ben Crowell Mar 12 '16 at 19:44
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Here is one story on it from US News & World Report... Their example was a Calculus textbook selling for $289 at the bookstore.

Where does all that money go? According to figures from the National Association of College Stores, an average of 21.6 cents of every dollar spent on a new textbook will go to the bookstore, whether for personnel costs, operations, or income. For Kadue's $289 textbook, that's around $62. Another cent of every dollar pays for the freight of shipping a heavy book around, so subtract another $3 from her cost. That leaves around $224 that goes to the publisher, or around 77.4 cents for every dollar.

NACS no longer receives information from publishers about where textbook money goes, but as recently as 2008, they provided that cost breakdown. At that time, around 15.4 cents of every dollar went toward marketing the textbooks, 11.7 cents went to the authors, and the largest chunk—32.2 cents—went to the basics: paper, printing, and paying publishers' employees.

  • Many years ago I had a discussion with a shopkeeper of a technical bookstore in my country. They told me that only about 10% of the book's price, for imported books, would go to them. – Massimo Ortolano Mar 11 '16 at 16:27
  • This doesn't answer the question, although to be fair the question is too broad to be answerable. We could multiply the average cost of a book by some of the percentages quoted here, but the numbers listed here are not a full accounting, and in any case there is such a huge amount of variation from one book to another that the averages are basically meaningless. – Ben Crowell Mar 12 '16 at 19:55

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