I have two textbooks I was required to purchase for Web Design classes. I noticed that the hard-copy paper book version is entirely black and white, but the ebook is all color. Aside from saving on printing costs, why would this color inconsistency exist? Is this common in ebook publishing? One publisher is O'Reilly (well-known) and the other is PACKT (less-well-known).

Further, is it common that an author or book designer would take the time to get color images just right, only to have them be printed in black and white? That doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

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    What would be the criteria for you to say that this is common? That there is a third textbook done this way? That 1‰ of the books published in paper and as eBook has this? Maybe the publishers see the printed books as being less important and don't want to restrict their product (eBook) because of they also provide a less important (for them) backwards compatible version on paper.
    – Anthon
    Oct 2, 2016 at 4:32

1 Answer 1


Obviously cost is the major concern, but often the importance of having color graphics in a printed book is overrated. For example, I have published a few print technical books with lots of screenshots, none of which would be better if the graphics were in color.

For example, a book specifically about css or layout or typography might not need color at all.

Yes, you're right that Packt and Oreilly typically use BW/grayscale graphics in their printed books, but I've also seen print examples from both publishers that are colorful. (Indeed, a lot of printed books about design are pretty awesome to look at).

When you're printing, you're trying to maximize royalties while keeping retail price low. When plugging in numbers via an online calculator for b/w and color versions of the same book, the cost differences can be substantial. One calculator shows it as costing 2x as much.

By the way, you have just described an easily overlooked advantage of ebooks -- the ability to include color graphics at no extra charge. I recently published a literary graphics with multiple interior graphics. I'm selling it at the minimum price (2.99) but if I sold it as print book, I'd have to increase the price so much that it wouldn't sell well.

(If you're buying a large number of print copies and selling it at workshops and conferences, the numbers improve somewhat though).

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