Originally Posted by xianfox
I've been in the publishing industry in some capacity for the last 17 years. You may be surprised to learn that the "immensely different" costs are not that immense.
Following a book through the author's writing, agent, publishing house, to store, the only pieces you remove from the printed equation is the physical paper & ink and physical distribution.
The costs for digital setup, licensing, marketing & distribution may be roughly equivalent, or only a bit lower, to start.
But selling 10,000 paper copies costs for a lot of paper, a lot of storage & distribution. Selling 10,000 digital copies costs... negligible per copy. Cost for SETUP is high; cost to actually distribute each copy is almost nil. And once the programming has been arranged for "convert publication-ready Word/InDesign/whatever doc to ebook format" (a sensible publisher would write their own in-house code for that), it can be done in seconds for each new book.
Claiming the cost of infrastructure makes the book costs equal would only make sense if book prices spiked when when gas prices get high, because distribution costs more.
Nobody's saying ebooks should be free. Just that, with equivalent infrastructure costs, actual cost-per-book is so low that it's insane to charge the same as a hardcover book, and not really sensible to charge paperback prices.
We know what paper costs. We know it's cheaper in bulk, but some of us know those prices, too. If 2/3 the book cost goes into layout, infrastructure & marketing... there's still the issue of "no paper, no storage fee." (Hard drive space & server activity don't remotely compare to warehouse and shipping fees.)
There's an interesting logic to, "this is a new market and so we need to create an entire infrastructure for it, and we're not sure how profitable it'll be so we'll make a tiny number of customers pay for the full infrastructure costs."