Book publishers struggle to get people to test their wares
So why is the margin attributable to the ideas in a book so low, at times in fact negative, whereby the total revenue earned by the book is less than the cost of producing and distributing it? Not because our society doesn’t value literature, as so many of us complain, but because it takes so long to discover whether or not you’ll actually like the book. Publishers offer the world a massive discount on what should be the true mark-up on manufacturing and distribution in order to persuade us to try something out, to gamble. To get us to risk wasting our time, they try to minimize the risk that we might be wasting our money. Perversely, publishers are unable to capture the upside. If it turns out we are not wasting our time and do get a wonderful experience, we get it for $1–$2 an hour, an order of magnitude cheaper than film, theatre, live music, recorded music, dance, a bar, a restaurant, a museum. We do so because a book is a much more unknown quantity, less susceptible to summary.