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Is an author of a popular textbook, for example griffiths, wealthy?

  1. Dec 3, 2013 #1
    For example
    Griffiths' Electrodynamics, and Quantum Mechanics seems popular.
    and the prices are expensive.
    I'm curious about how much money the author make by selling these books.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2013 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Bassed on this article, I would say the publishers are getting truly wealthy:


    and here's one authors experience:


    and here:

    http://wps.aw.com/aw_perloff_microcalc_1/76/19539/5002058.cw/content/index.html [Broken]

    and google books has this reference:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=62...age&q=author college textbook royalty&f=false

    look for the Your Royalties section for breakdown of typical royalty payments. They say from 2% to 20% of the book price. Best selling introductory textbook authors canmake about $100K per year in royalties.

    so it looks like they get 15% of the wholesale price of the book which my guess probably amounts to 5% when its sold to students.

    Google search on "author college textbook royalty" to see more references.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Dec 7, 2013 #3
    Hmm... one of the engineering professors at my school has written a crap load of textbooks. Now I feel the need to go ask him how much he makes from it and report back, hah!
  5. Dec 7, 2013 #4


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    James Stewart (the author of that abomination of a calculus textbook) made a pretty profit from his books.
  6. Dec 7, 2013 #5


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    ... but probably not as much as J K Rowling. Somebody needs to make a 7-movie series on calculus. Plus a prequel on pre-calculus, of course.

    Oh wait - isn't that what MOOCs are doing already? :smile:
  7. Dec 7, 2013 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Royalties are in the $2-$5 per copy range. The structure for this is very complicated and depends on the number of books sold. I expect Griffiths is closer to $2, but you never know - he may be a great negotiator.

    There are 6000-7000 physics grads per year. Perhaps as many as half use Griffiths, and perhaps 60% buy new copies. So that works out to $4000 per year.

    For graduate texts, the economics is even worse: the publisher does pay a little more per book, but the number of books sold is much, much less.

    The money is in introductory texts. But it's a tough market to break into, and there is pressure for new editions all the time, so it's a substantial amount of work to keep current.
  8. Dec 8, 2013 #7


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    I don't know why everyone uses his precalculus and calculus books.
  9. Dec 8, 2013 #8


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    That's an understatement. Stewart's home, Integral House, is reported to have cost $24 million to build, which doesn't include the $5.4 million he paid to tear down an existing house on the site. That's a lot of royalties for any kind of book.
  10. Dec 8, 2013 #9
    wow looks like you're right. I found this story:

    a 150-seat concert hall? madness!
  11. Dec 8, 2013 #10
    I mean.. 90% of Canadian Students and 70% of American students.. that's not just "widely used." That's "almost exclusively used."
  12. Dec 8, 2013 #11


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    Griffiths deserves to be rich. His EM book is one of the absolute masterpieces of physics textbook writing.
  13. Dec 12, 2013 #12
    True, and his QM book too. It's much more mathematically rigorous than any other book I've found at this level and still gives a lot of the intuition. Many of the quantum mechanics books authors should be arrested for not knowing how to use simple mathematics correctly, making QM even more confusing than it already is...
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