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iBook Lessons: Publishing costs


iBook Lessons is a continuing series about ebook writing and publishing.

Andrew Hyde jumped into the ebook business with both feet. After fully funding a KickStarter project to raise start-up costs for his "This Book is about Travel," he published his manuscript to a variety of vendors. His outlets included Amazon's Kindle store, Apple's iBooks, and B&N's Nook, as well as Gumroad, a DRM-free PDF seller.

What he found is that a ten-dollar ebook with lots of pictures brings home quite different earnings, depending on the vendor. In particular, he got hit -- and hit hard -- by Amazon's delivery fees. His 18 MB ebook costs him US$2.58 per Amazon download, which is a substantial overhead.

Amazon details its delivery charges on this KDP help page. As an author, you pay $0.15 per megabyte in delivery charges, in addition to the 30% off-the-top costs Amazon charges. An image-heavy book will hit you hard in the pocketbook. That's quite different from Apple, which is happy to host resource-packed ebooks for a straight 30%.

Hyde points out that delivering the same content using Amazon Web Services S3 would cost about a penny for each five downloads, bringing the Amazon mark up to about 129,000% in his calculation.

So why sell Amazon? It's the demand. 51% of his Kickstarter supporters requested Kindle format, and 73% of his first 300 digital orders were Kindle. For all that Amazon charges, you don't make money on the books you don't sell.

Hopefully, if enough authors speak up, Amazon will adjust its fee structure -- especially since many deliveries now happen over WiFi, not just Whispernet. Apple is providing an ever improving alternative for many readers, as I can personally see over time in the shift in sales of my ebooks.

With its iBooks Author tool, allowance of books of up to 2GB in size, and strict 30% cut, Apple makes resource-rich books a more attractive prospect, assuming authors can find their customer base.

Amazon remains the 800-pound gorilla in the ebook room. That may not always be so.

Thanks, John Fricker

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