You may have heard that print books are doing better than they were, compared to printed books.
Hooray, maybe people really do prefer the feel of a book in their hand, and being able to turn pages physically.
That may be true, but there's another reason, probably the primary one.
Here's an example: today I was looking for a book by Bertrand Russell. On Amazon.co.uk the paperback edition of his "History of Western Philosophy" costs £17.99. This book is 792 pages long, so the cost of printing and shipping it is considerable.
The ebook version would be considerably cheaper, right? Half that price, maybe?
Nope. It's £17.03.
Consider that for a moment: it suggests that creating a digital product costs only 96 pence less than printing, storing, and shipping (from the printing works to the distribution points) a 792-page book.
There are even times that an ebook costs MORE than a printed book. For instance today on Amazon Ruby Wax's "A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled" costs £3.99 for the printed book, but £4.99 for the ebook. OK, this is due to a promotion for the paperback on Amazon; at other sites, the prices of the paperback is £7.31 and £6.99, and the official price is £8.99. Even so, they lowered the price on the printed book but not on the ebook.
One more example, a current best-seller, "Tom Kerridge's Dopamine Diet." The ebook is £11.69 on Amazon; the hardcover version is £13.00. If you know how much it costs to produce hardcover books, especially those with color pages, will know that the difference between that and a digital version is much greater.
In the self-publishing world, the difference between the digital and the print version (if the author bothers with a print version) more accurately reflects the difference in costs.
I think publishers are shooting themselves in the foot. Yes, if you want a book on the best-seller lists that is published by a traditional publisher, you have no choice; but especially for non-fiction books, people will turn more and more to self-published ebooks. (Many self-published authors are underpricing their books, but that's a topic for another article.) And that means traditional publishers' short-term gains are going to turn into long-term losses.