Edited by Ruth Towse
Chapter 53: Publishing
Christian Hjorth-Andersen The publishing business has the distinction of providing the first known example of the average cost curve, showing the dependence of average total costs on volume. These cost curves were first presented by the German publisher Gottfried Christoph Härtel in about 1800, antedating other authors by almost a century. They were even put to practical use in negotiations with authors and composers including Ludwig van Beethoven; see the amusing account by Scherer (2001). However, this glorious past has not turned into a present of equal distinction. The knowledge about publishing is very scattered and comes almost entirely from outside the academic world, with Caves (2000) as an exception. The material relating to publishing is enormous, including official reports from various countries, memoirs, biographies and a large amount of anecdotal evidence, but solid knowledge based on research published in academic journals is scarce. Good data on the publishing industry are not very easy to come by as many publishing companies have other businesses besides publishing books, for example publication of magazines, and they publish their accounts for the company rather than for the book division. And data on the economics of the individual book are unavailable on a systematic basis. The basic functions of a publishing company consist of three parts: acquisition of manuscripts, editing and layout, and sales. The actual printing of the books may very well be outsourced, and so a publishing company need not be a very large company in the sense of employing many...
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