I was hoping Richard Kaufman would write his thoughts being a publisher of magic books. It seems he is still holding back. So I will share my opinion and experience.
Are magic books too expensive or too cheap? My answer to this is that the market determines the price, and has done so in the past. If the price is too high they wouldn't sell, the publisher would go out of business. If they are too low the publisher would as well not make enough profit and sooner or later go out of business or find better ways to invest his money. In some sense it is a self regulating system. This also means that there are always some who think they are too expensive and some that they are too cheap.
Let's consider some facts. A typical hardcover book with a run of ~2000 costs ~$5/copy to print. The problem with printing is that loading and setting up a printing machine is time consuming and costly. That is why a run of less than 1000 books doesn't make much sense to begin with. If less than 1000 books are printed the prices have to be considerably higher. Take a look at my last book published under Springer Verlag. You have to shell out $125 for it and it has just under 300 pages.
Is there a way to make books cheaper? Yes there are ways. One is larger print runs. But we know already there is a limit to it in the magic market. Another one is cheaper production (softcover). But all of these would only shave off a few dollars. Not a significant reduction, because the biggest cost are in the distribution chain of books. Books are heavy and take up space.
You have the publisher, then the distributor, then the dealer. Everyone and rightly so has to make a profit to be able to run his business. And there are real costs associated with running any business or service. So for you to be able to walk into your local dealer and browse a book you pay about 5x to 7x more than what the book really costs to produce.
The answer to making books a lot more cheaper but still compensate the author higher are - you guessed it - EBOOKS. And there are several reasons why this is so.
i) No large print runs neccessary. Meaning there is much less money to put up front to finance an ebook.
ii) Distribution cost can be held very low due to the possibility of electronic distribution through the internet. Even the CD distribution the way my shop (Lybrary.com) is favoring is much cheaper. We can pack literally hundreds of ebooks on one silver disk and our customers pay only the distribution for a single disc and not a several pounds heavy package.
iii) Direct sales chain from publisher to end consumer. There is no need to involve distributors or individual dealers. Read why Dell Computers was so successful. It was direct marketing through the internet cutting out distributors and dealers. The same thing I am doing with Lybrary.com. Our CDs and ebooks are only available through us online. This means you do not have to pay any profit margins of distributors and dealers. This also means that I am able to pay much higher royalties to authors than a regular publisher does and can.
iv) Storage costs are low for the publisher as well as the consumer. Any medium to large publisher knows that running a warehouse incures a significant cost to operate. Ebooks are stored on hard discs or tapes which do not cost a whole lot. Even the consumer can save a lot of money storing his books on a few discs rather than having to dedicate a basement or library for his books.
The economics are the reason why ebooks will in the end win over books, or at least become just as important and large a market as books are now. Certainly, this will not happen overnight due mainly to the human inability and desire to change. All the other reasons which are usually put forth, such as the small available ebook selection, and technological considerations are minor issues compared to the human aspect.
To put it very clearly. If you want to get cheaper magic books and at the same time ensure that the author receives more money per sold copy, buy ebooks.
preserving magic one book at a time.