Why aren’t ebooks free?

Kobo, ebooks.com, amazon kindle, google books, nook, ebooks, ingram, myilibrary, academic pub, dawson, ebook library, ebrary
Our ebook vendors

Since we started publishing ebooks for library platforms back in 1999, we’ve often pondered on what the correct pricing for ebooks should be. In 2011 we started publishing each new book, and a large number of backlist titles, on all major consumer ebook platforms (like Amazon Kindle, Apple iBookstore, Google Play, Kobo, Nook, Ebooks.com and many independent ebooksellers) and the question of pricing has come up again. We are often asked “why aren’t your ebooks free, or extremely cheap, given that they cost nothing to produce?”  and so, in this post, I’ll outline why we price them like we do.

While we don’t have print, warehousing or shipping costs for ebook sales, these are only a small number of the total costs in book publishing. The majority of the costs in producing an academic book come from the huge investment of time and resources that the publisher, the author, and the academic series editors have put into a book. For example, this month we proudly published “Language Planning and Policy in Native America”, a book which we first started discussing with the author over 12 years ago. During that time, the manuscript has undergone several reviews, and many revisions, with the knowledge that we would not start to receive any income until the book was finally published. As a responsible academic publisher we are committed to not publishing books until they are fully and rigorously reviewed and revised so that they are not only factually accurate but as easy to read and as well-structured as possible to enable the reader to get the most out of the book. Anybody that has ever read an unedited self-published volume will be able to tell the difference that an experienced and careful review and editing process brings to a book project.

Sarah, our production manager, checking proofs in the office
Sarah, our production manager, checking proofs in the office

During the development time we still have to pay the office rent and the salaries of those members of staff working on the book. The author and academic series editors are not paid a penny for their work until the book is published and starts to earn royalties. We always pay our authors and editors a percentage of all income earned by the book, whether we as a publisher have covered our costs or not, and these are the cheques that we have the most pleasure in sending out. If we are sending our authors a large royalty cheque, it means a job well done.

Once a book goes into production, we work with our copy-editors and typesetters to ensure that typographical errors are corrected and that the files are laid out in a way that makes the book readable on the variety of different devices and systems that our customers use to access our ebooks. We continue to research developments in the ebook publishing arena, and make sure that our company is ready to respond to new developments as and when a reliable industry wide solution is made available. We pride ourselves in being among the early adopters of most new publishing strategies.

Govinda, our Indian Rep, at the World Book Fair in New Delhi
Govinda, our Indian Rep, at the World Book Fair in New Delhi

The cost to the publisher doesn’t stop on publication. We support all of our books with marketing mailings, email announcements, displays at conferences, review copies and so on. Furthermore, we regularly visit our international library bookselling partners and meet with our international reps to make sure that our publication information is available to top research libraries and customers around the world. Although it is easy these days to make a book available on the internet, or in a library database, we believe that each individual title deserves specific publicity to make sure that it is not only available, but also, that the people who would benefit the most from that research are made aware of it. This takes time, expertise, and funding.

What people sometimes don’t realise is that not all of what the customer pays for a book is passed on to the publisher. Therefore, each time we sell an ebook, our bookselling partners take a portion of the income and pay us after taking off the discount that we give them. The work that booksellers and library suppliers do on behalf of their customers does not come for free, and neither should it.

Another cost to the publisher is monitoring file sharing sites and illegal pirate copies of the work, which we do on behalf of our authors to ensure that their work is not read without them receiving reward for their hard work. File-sharing sites might seem idealistic, but the owner and host of that site may well be receiving valuable advertising revenue, driven by the amount of traffic that visits their site. So they are getting paid, while the people who have spent years creating the content are not. As soon as we discover our content on these sites, we write to them requesting that they stop illegally sharing material that belongs to somebody else.

Tommi at the TESOL conference
Tommi at the TESOL conference

As a publisher we believe in supporting the main associations in our fields, whether that is by regular conference attendance by senior staff at the CAUTHE conference, annual top level sponsorship of AAAL, or long term grant projects like the Multilingual Matters-AILA Library Award and Multilingual Matters-AILA Solidarity Award. We strongly believe in contributing towards the future development of the fields in which we work, and although we don’t tie the costs of these sponsorships to individual book or ebook publications, this is where the money comes from.

Given all the time, effort and expense that go into running a truly international, responsible academic publishing company, surely the real question is “why should an ebook be free?”


CAUTHE 2013, 11-14 February 2013

Lincoln University
Lincoln University

Ellie and I both attended CAUTHE this year which was very exciting! The conference moved to New Zealand for this year and was held at Lincoln University in Christchurch. CAUTHE was the largest conference (in terms of delegates) to be held in Christchurch since the earthquake in 2011. The opening keynote of the conference was from Tim Hunter, Chief Executive of Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism, who gave a fascinating account of Christchurch’s ongoing recovery and the ambitious future plans for the city. We also had the opportunity to tour ‘the red zone’ in the city centre (where vehicles and pedestrians are currently prohibited) to see the effects of the earthquake up-close.

Elizabeth Roberts winning the Kindle
Elizabeth Roberts winning the Kindle

At this year’s conference, we gave away a Kindle, preloaded with 85 of our books. Elizabeth Roberts, from Southern Cross University, was the lucky recipient after Ellie drew her business card out!

The damaged cathedral in the centre of Christchurch's 'red zone'
The damaged cathedral in the centre of Christchurch’s ‘red zone’

The high standard of papers of past CAUTHEs was continued this year, and the Great Debate (this year, Tourism on the Edge: Slow & Local vs Fast & Global) was again a feature of the conference – the Australasians (Slow & Local) with a resounding victory despite the Rest of the World’s best efforts!

We also had a chance to sample a variety of local Canterbury wines which many of us enjoyed! The conference was brought to a very fun end at Riccarton House, a local heritage site, with more wine and lots of dancing.

CAUTHE returns to Australia next year and we’ll be looking forward to seeing all the usual suspects and hopefully meeting some new faces in Brisbane!


Channel View Publications/Multilingual Matters on iBooks


Channel View Publications is very happy to say that our titles are now available on Apple’s iBooks. There are currently 65 titles ready for you to sample and/or buy and more will be added on a monthly basis. These include new books published from May 2012 onwards and a selection of backlist titles. What more could you want from the holiday season than to be able to carry around Channel View/Multilingual Matters books on your phone?? Behold a selection of some samples of our titles all neatly downloaded in someone’s Library!beautiful books!

Please visit the App store on iTunes, download the iBooks app on your iPad or iPhone and have a look for yourself.

Of course, if you’re not an Apple fan, our ebooks are also available via the Kindle Store, Google Play, Nook, Kobo, ebooks.com, Sony and many others including all major library platforms.

Ebooks and CoreSource

MM/CVP have partnered with CoreSource to ensure you get our ebooks faster! CoreSource is Ingram’s digital asset management and distribution (DAM/DAD) service which saves a lot of my valuable-Production-Manager-time in sending metadata and files to each of the platforms/sites we sell our ebooks from.

Our ebooks are now available from 18 different vendors including Amazon Kindle, Google Play, Nook by Barnes & Noble, Kobo, eBooks.com, and for libraries EBL, ebrary, EBSCOhost, DawsonEra and MyiLibrary. Our chapters are available to purchase for use in course packs at AcademicPub – we now have chapters for over 150 titles available so go and visit!

Often ebooks can be purchased before they’re available in print so do look out for them if you can’t wait to read one of our many fascinating titles!

For more information on our ebooks please visit the ebooks page on our website or if you have any queries please email info@channelviewpublications.com.

Ebook News

We are pleased to announce that we now have ebook versions of our books available to download directly from our website. Where available a “Go to ebook” button will appear on the book page. To view or buy the ebook, just click the button. The prices for each ebook are shown on the ebook page itself, and are usually significantly cheaper than the paperback version of the book. You can download the ebook in either epub or pdf format.

Many of our ebooks are also available for purchase on Amazon Kindle. These can be found by searching on Amazon’s website, or within the Kindle store on the Kindle or Kindle app.

Our books are also available to purchase through the Google Ebookstore, currently available in the UK, USA, Australia and Canada.

Ebooks are also currently available for download through ebooks.comkobobooks.com and nook.com and a growing number of bookstores and websites. Search your preferred ebook retailer by Author, Title or Ebook ISBN for price and availability. Most of the above offer a reader app that you can download so that you can read our books on your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Library platform ebooks are available from the following aggregators: EBSCOEbraryEBLMyiLibrary and DawsonEra.

For a list of currently available titles or any other queries, please email info@channelviewpublications.com.

Where does the money go?

Our Managing Director Tommi explains how the money from our books is spent and why ebooks aren’t free.

Why do books cost what they do?

In the past month we’ve been asked both why our books are so expensive, and how they are so cheap. It’s all a matter of perspective of course. If you compare a specialist book with one aimed at a general audience, then one will seem more expensive than the other.

To illustrate what makes up the price of a book, my father once showed me a simple greetings card, and a nicely bound notebook. Both were about the same price, yet one had about 200 pages, while the other was simply a piece of card with a design on it. If you count just the materials involved, clearly the notebook should be the more expensive.

So, when you pay 40 dollars for a book, where does each of those dollars go?

Naturally every book is different, but here is an approximate breakdown, based on selling the number of copies that we predicted when we printed the book.

Bookshop/Wholesaler/Retail chain $14
Author/Editor Royalties $2.75
Printing $4.00
Design & typesetting $3.00
Marketing $2.90
Warehousing & delivery $3.90
Overheads & rent $1.80
Staff salaries/taxes/employment costs $6.50
Profit to be reinvested or paid out to shareholders $1.25
Total = $40

Pie chart representing breakdown of cost

We’ve also been asked “shouldn’t ebooks be free?” The argument is that since there is no physical product, there aren’t any costs involved.

Of the expenses detailed above, the only costs that are related to the physical book product are warehousing and delivery, and printing. So I would certainly agree with those that suggest that ebooks should be cheaper than printed books. Thus we do in fact price our Kindle and epub ebooks at between 25% and 50% discount from the print price. However there will always be some quite substantial costs involved in properly publishing ebooks, including the selection, editorial and marketing costs.

Exciting news!

For all of our readers who are interested in digital books (and those who know nothing about them, but are intrigued none the less!), we have some exciting news to announce…our first books are now available on the Amazon Kindle.  This has been a big accomplishment for us and quite a few months coming, so we are delighted to have over 30 titles now available online.

Titles from both Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications are now ready for download and so the wide range of books includes: A Practical Guide for Translators, Sociolinguistics and Language Education, Bilingual Siblings, On Creative Writing, Tourism in Japan, Official Tourism Websites and Coffee Culture, Destinations and Tourism.  To see if the book you’d like to buy is already available, just go to the Amazon website, click on the Kindle store from the drop down menu beside the search box and then search.

Over the course of the next few months we shall be making more of our backlist available and all our new titles will be ready for download soon after print publication.  What’s more, if there’s a book that you’d really like to buy for your Kindle we are capable of converting most older titles, so please send us an email at info@channelviewpublications.com and we’ll do our best to make it available.

Here's a screenshot of one of our titles being read from the Kindle app on the iPad