@2disbetter’s comment is worth highlighting for people who don’t understand. When Purism wants to release a new laptop model, it has to pay out quite a bit. For example, Intel charges for its laptop reference design which Purism needs to modify to add its kill switches, TPM and set fuses on the board so it can boot without a signed BIOS/UEFI. For some parts, OEMs and ODMs charge an upfront fee that Purism has to pay, even if Purism never ends up using the part and then there is the cost of designing the laptop to use that part.
For example, Purism posted in August 2016 about its extra costs to offer 4K screens in the Librem 15:
We made heavy investments trying to make this happen, and have spent sums that we cannot recoup: approximately $75,000 in assembly line retooling and deposits for 4K screens to Samsung and LG for orders that will, it seems, never materialize. We are trying to negotiate and recover some of the supplier deposits, but at this point we have to consider this money a net loss. On the other hand, we’ve made other investments early in our campaign that were worth it (for example: $50k to place an initial order for rarer Intel CPUs requested by some backers, $25k to retool the motherboard to 6 layers to support 32GB of RAM, progressively growing our team…).
When Purism asks an EOM, ODM or electronics assembler to do a manufacturing batch, it has to pay all the money upfront. Big companies like Apple, HP, Dell and Lenovo can negotiate special deals to pay later and to pay less per unit, but a small company like Purism can’t get those special deals. Banks are also reluctant to loan money to companies like Purism, so Purism has to raise money to release a new model through pre-orders and by raising money through kickfurther.com, which is costly compared to getting a normal bank loan. Purism has raised money 8 times on kickfurther since 2016.
After Purism places its orders to manufacture the Librem 14 and hands your money over to the manufacturer, you cause a problem for the company when you demand a refund. It has to have enough liquidity on hand to cover refunds, which is difficult, especially in the current economic recession. For these reasons, Purism decided to change its policy in early March 2020, and only pay refunds after it ships the device.
The risk to the consumer is pretty small when preordering the Librem 13/14/15/Mini/Server, since they arrive within a couple months, but it is a bigger risk for a product like the Librem 5 that requires years of development.
There are only three Linux companies that do custom manufacturing of Linux laptops (PINE64, Star Labs and Purism), and there are only two that maintain their own distro (System76 and Purism) and only two do firmware development (System76 and Purism).
If you want unique Linux devices that require custom manufacturing and software development, there is no way to get them without accepting the higher costs and the higher risks that entails.