26 May 2009

Help with publishing math

I'm having trouble understanding the costs of print editions of things vs their digital edition costs -- can somebody help?

The other day I received an offer from a magazine I read regularly, which I purchase from a local bookship via standing arrangement.

The offer was for a standard "European" subscription (the magazine is UK-based) of £24 for one year. Along-side this was a standard digital subscription for £19 for one year.

Hm, I thought. That is only a £5 total difference. What about the printing costs that are being saved? No fancy paper, no four-colour glossy. What about distribution? There's no mailing cost. No delivery costs. No sorting. No stamping or weighing.

The magazine is a quarterly, so that's a £1,25 per issue difference.

Is that really all the paper, printing, warehousing, handling and posting costs per single issue?

I put the question to my writers workshop last night. General consensus was that digital-only editions should be about half of a standard print product.

Of course, none of us are (yet) publishers. One will soon be a small one.

Also, this was very informal and off-the-cuff.

However, I think our general gut reaction is telling. Even if print/distristribution costs are only about 20% of a magazine's cost, the reduction from £24 to £19 sure doesn't seem like enough of an enticement for a product that you can only read on-line. There's something else going on psychologically.... Something along the lines of, if we (readers/subscribers) don't get something tangible, physical, that we can take to the beach or read in the bath, a 20% reduction in price isn't going to cut it.

But I'd love to hear your thoughts on this -- and see your math, if possible!

See also
Calulating a fair price for e-books
Switch11's Kindle book cost analysis


  1. I still use my Reader every week to scan through submissions and manuscripts although, interestingly enough, I have still yet to purchase a single eBook. I think they are too expensiveScott Pack

  2. Switch11 on http://ireaderreview.com/2009/05/21/kindle-book-cost-analysis/ told me that
    "It doesn't feel like enough because it seems like there ought to be other efficiencies magazines should be able to incorporate like not printing lots and lots of extra copies, paying (as a larger cut of the price) retail stores for shelf space, and so forth." But neither of us know enough about magazine publishing, really.