Why Are Books So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

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Oberon Copeland

Oberon Copeland is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, with a degree in economics and HR.

Reading books is one of the oldest forms of entertainment in history. Today, books are no less effective in inspiring people, influencing cultural change, and transforming nations.

However, it might be difficult to indulge in books given the hefty price tags most books come in. Why are books so expensive? I looked into it and here is what I found!

Why Are Books So Expensive?

Books are so expensive because books have to be written, edited, revised, and designed by numerous professionals before publication. Additionally, printing books is more costly today than it was before. Once published, books are distributed and marked-up by sellers. A book’s author, popularity, and edition can also contribute to the book’s priciness.

In case you are interested to learn more about the production, marketing, and distribution of books and how the demand and competition in the publishing industry impacts a book’s prices, keep on reading!

1. Books Undergo A Costly Printing Process

Book printing is a costly endeavor, even more so now that essential tools like paper ink, and printing machines are expensive to procure.

Moreover, different publishers can use different types of papers and printing formats, and these choices can make a book cheaper or more costly to print.

All of these factors have a direct impact on the publisher’s recommended selling price for each book they produce, and often that price ends up being hefty.

2. Numerous Professionals Work On Books

Most people think that producing a book is as simple as submitting a finished work to a publisher, getting it approved, and mass producing it.

However, nothing can be farther from the truth. After an author finishes writing a book, it has to be represented by a literary agent, sold to a publishing house, edited, and revised.

Apart from agents and editors, layout artists and book cover designers also have to work on a book. These professionals are the best in their field and normally have high salaries.

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Naturally, publishers cover these salaries by generating profit from book sales, and publishers cannot secure enough profit if books are sold cheaply.

3. Royalties Have To Be Paid To Authors & Publishers

Authors and publishers continually make money from their books through royalties. A certain percentage of a book’s cost goes to authors and publishers with each sale.

When authors or books become popular, publishers and distributors expect that the sales of these books will increase. As such, they can also increase the book’s cost.

Covering the royalties that authors and publishers receive is one of the leading reasons behind a book’s expensiveness.

4.  Avid Readers Around The World Are Decreasing

Over the past decade, the number of avid readers in America have decreased by a huge percentage, and there is reason to believe that this steady decline will continue.

Likewise, the population of readers around the world are also suffering from the same decline. For any other product, this economy of sale would make books cheaper.

In the publishing industry, however, a decrease in book demands results in book prices increasing.

5. Transporting Books Generate Hefty Logistical Costs

5. Transporting Books Generate Hefty Logistical Costs

Books are considered fragile goods. Any dent, fold, or tear can significantly decrease the book’s chances of being sold since most readers want to purchase only pristine copies.

As such, publishers and distributors have to invest in precautions that inevitably inflate transit costs. Moreover, shipping books overseas can be just as problematic.

All of these costs are then added to the selling price of books so that publishers and distributors can recoup the monetary investments they made.

6. Reseller Markups On Books Are Usually High

Bookstores today come in all shapes and sizes. Some also function as stationary shops, while others operate cafes on the sideline for people who like to read in public.

Regardless, all bookstores must be spacious enough to display books and keep stocks, and this can drive up the overhead expenses of bookstores.

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To cover these overhead expenses, bookstores need to place huge mark-ups on books.

Incidentally, the same goes for online marketplaces like Amazon, because maintaining an online shop and convenient shipping options can be just as expensive.

7. Print Books Are Competing With E-Books & Audiobooks

You would think that the presence of alternatives like e-books and audiobooks would force publishers and bookstores to lower the prices of print books.

However, this is not the case. One of the ways print books compete with e-books and audiobooks is to provide more appealing editions of their most popular titles.

You might have also noticed that books today come with more attractive cover designs and come with all sorts of colored artworks, bookmarks, colored edges.

These strategies work especially well on avid readers, but producing appealing copies are expensive. Naturally, these types of books will also sell at a high price.

8. Some Books Are Hyped On Social Media

While the number of avid readers are decreasing, those that remain are actively promoting and hyping books on social media.

Hyped books tend to receive more interest from both readers and non-readers, which may produce a larger demand for the book.

Additionally, hyped books typically generate a large and loyal following. When books are hyped on social media, publishers can make these books expensive.

9. Some Authors Have Massive Followings

Think George R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling. Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, and Neil Gailman. These authors are some of the most beloved names in the book industry today.

Since these authors are so popular, their readers are likely to pick up any book they release, especially if these books are connected to their best-selling works.

In a way, an author’s following is more beneficial than a single book or book series’ following because the author will inevitably produce unrelated titles in the future.

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Publishers and distributors feel more confident selling the works of authors with huge followings because the profit is almost always guaranteed.

Securing this huge profit they expect requires increasing the prices of these authors’ books.

10. Publishers Have To Market The Books

Marketing books is a difficult job, especially in an overly saturated market. Publishers have to put up billboards, book trailers, and social media posts.

Moreover, there is an increasing reliance on BookTok and Bookstagram communities to get the word out about a new title or an upcoming second or third book to a series.

All of these efforts generate expenses that are passed on to consumers through the book’s hefty price tag.

11. A Books Edition Can Make It More Desirable

First edition books are some of the most expensive books in the world, mainly because these books are rare and considered the original version.

However, there are also other editions that are costly because of their general design. These books could be hardbound with embossed titles and sprayed page edges.

When you purchase special edition books, you can expect to pay a higher price for them.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why Graphing calculators are so expensive, why Grammarly is so expensive, and why Course Hero is so expensive.

Conclusion

Books are getting more and more expensive mainly because the economy of sale happens in reverse with books.

When books are in lower demand, publishers and distributors have to increase the price of books. Likewise, the popularity of ebooks and audiobooks make print books more costly.

Factors like printing, marketing, and transporting books also have a huge impact on a book’s final selling price. As such, books today fetch a higher price.

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