What are we paying for when adding a book to our shopping cart? In other words, how much is a book worth? Some textbooks are priced over 100$, while others are sold for a price ten times less. So there should be a secret component that determines the price of a book (no, it’s not publishers’ greediness, although sometimes, it is actually the case). So what is it? Knowing the value and market price of a book will help you buy books cheaply and save on items like textbooks, whose prices are artificially high.
Costs of Book Production and Distribution
First and foremost, the price of the book includes the author’s royalties (unless it’s an all-time classic). When buying a book, you don’t pay for paper and ink only (the sole cost of producing a physical object called “book” is not that high). It is the author’s intellectual work that is rewarded. That is why there is such a fierce debate about the e-books pricing system. Dumping prices for e-books partially neglects the heaps of intellectual work that stand behind any publication.
A book is also a material object, and we need various physical resources and processes to assemble it together. Moreover, many people stand behind these processes — they should be fairly paid for their hard work.
- materials and resources like paper, electricity, ink, and water
- printing and binding
- cover design
- copyright for illustration
- editors, proofreaders, translators
- managing team
You’re right to worry that many exhaustible resources are used in the process of book production. The distribution is no less eco-friendly. Can book publishing be sustainable? We hope, yes — and here we discuss crucial principles behind eco-friendly book production.
Distribution and Marketing Costs
The costs for storage and logistics also contribute to the final price of the book. Moreover, books should be marketed and distributed. Whether it is sold in a traditional book store or online, the operations cost money.
A lot depends on the size of the publisher. Smaller houses outsource some parts of the process, while more prominent players in the industry have their own logistics and marketing team in-house. Although an excellent option, even self-publishing is quite pricey when it comes to production, distribution, and marketing.
In this industry, every choice matters. A seemingly unimportant decision — whether to print a book as a hardback or paperback — can influence both production and shipping costs. Paperbacks cost less (sometimes two times less than hardcover editions of the same book); moreover, they are lightweight, which also lowers the subsequent transportation costs!
Don’t forget about the demand — this is the leading player determining the answer to our question: “How much is a book worth?” There are types of books — for example, textbooks —that are always in high demand and therefore they cost a lot.
Of course, one should consider the marginal bargain that every publisher wants to get from putting a book into print. This desire is basically the sole reason behind the textbook pricing racket.
How much are rare and used books worth
The value of rare and used books is defined by a completely different set of qualities. Their price does not have to cover any technical costs incurred during the production and distribution cycle.
Some used books are regarded as antique and rare (and their value on the market can be as high as several thousand dollars), while other used books are going straight to a garbage dump (but hopefully — to a recycling point). Used textbooks are also big players on the second-hand books market as they are worth quite a bit despite “being old.”
Here, the relation is straightforward — the better the condition, the higher the price can be asked for an item. Before setting the price for used books, it is vital to know if the original binding is preserved and if there are scribbles on the margins and a lot of highlighting or not. Hardcovers tend to last longer than softcover, so hardcover editions can be priced higher on the second-hand market as well.
If there are newer editions of a book in circulation, the price of the used copies of previous editions will be dumped considerably. While manuals and textbooks should indeed be updated regularly, some publishers artificially produce new editions which prevents students from buying used textbooks cheaply.
First editions of famous books are valued highly. A classic example — for the very first edition Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone printed in 1997 (with a print run of 500 copies), you should cash out around 25.000$.
I doubt that you possess any incunabula (books printed before 1500) and early prints, but in case you’ve wondered… these rarities are valued a lot. For example, for the first-ever book on chess (printed in Augsburg in 1477), one will pay as much as 212000$!
After all, a second-hand market is a market, so the crucial rule of supply and demand balance guides the pricing. In the used textbooks market, the demand for specific subjects is always high. Therefore books in business, nursing, and science (like chemistry and biology) are usually priced a bit higher. But it also means that you can sell used textbooks in these categories for a bigger buyback.
How to buy books cheaply
Do not shy away from buying used books — this is a perfect way to replenish your library cheaply. Think of it as a cost-sharing enterprise. Moreover, it is a sustainable practice.
You should turn to vendors selling used books, especially if you need to get something really pricey — like to get an expensive book as a gift or buy textbooks for the coming term. To buy books cheaply, use BooksRun services! We offer an extensive collection of used books for sale and rent!