November 27, 2003
Books cost a bomb, film at 11
In the course of my work, more and more
are coming across my desk, and I wonder
Has Sir Allen Lane's
14 years ago
Sorry, that first link should be to
I wonder if the increases in the cost of books is in line with inflation? If anything, this just makes (a) second-hand shops more popular and prevalent, and (b) requires the consumer to be more judicious about their purchases.
My actual point is, er, why is obligatory to buy more book when less will do? These trade versions I'm seeing do not have a vanilla counterpart.
obligatory? (Mes excuses, bad day, but also very very good day.)
Yeah, trade paperbacks are kind of the worst of both worlds, aren't they? The size and cost of hardcovers, combined with the longevity (ha!) of paperbacks.
And why do they call them "trade" paperbacks? If we could trade for them, we wouldn't be omplaining about the price, eh? (I'm sorry. I was channelling Jerry Seinfeld there for a moment)
This has been going on for decades. I see the same books I bought for a dollar or two in the '60s and slipped into my pocket (that's why they used to call them "pocket books," kids!) selling for $14.95 and heavy enough to weigh down my shoulder bag. I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused... and I hang on to my old editions. And Fes, the increase (as in college tuition) is way out of line with inflation. It's like restaurants giving you huge portions so you'll accept the high price of the entree, except the restaurants have more excuse for it (it's
to keep a restaurant going).
I've reached a point where any book that I want to own, I try to buy it in hardback. Softback books are fine on shelves, untouched, but as soon as I try to read one, it sustains incredible damage. As much as I dislike paperback books, I do prefer the larger size and better quality of the modern form. Also, I think it must make the publishers more proud of their output, creating a better product. And yes, I agree with Fes, because in consequence to the above ideas, I am very judicious in my book purchases - however, I am now generally more pleased with the books I own, and if a book has a cover I don't like, I can simply search/wait for another edition.
I buy more books than I should (read: "can afford"). Most often I buy paperbacks. If I find that it's one of the few that I want to re-read, I'll generally pass on the paperback to a friend and buy the hardcover version the next time I read it.
I enjoy the heft and feel of hard cover or trade paperbacks. It makes the book more special for me. The paperback is a disposable medium for me but a hard cover or trade paperback will sit on my shelf and allows for multiple re-readings.
I wonder if the same thing will happen eventually to book publishers that happened/is happening to recording companies? The analogy seems apt. Prices seem to be raised faster than is economically justifiable, while at the same time offerings increase significantly. Ebooks are already a (sort of) proven technology - they're just unpopular, due primarily to the poor quality and eye-popping resolutions of computer screens. When a decent paper-analog, on an easily portable and convenient appliance, that doesn't make your eyes throb like a poet's heart is invented, then I think you see some interesting developments (although I still kind of wonder why pdf didn;t take off in this capacity). CD ripping software ~> high speed batch scanner. I think people will then begin bootlegging books, just like we bootleg music now; same as with the recording industry, it will drive a distribution and profit model change. The wild card is huge-volume booksellers like Amazon. I personally rarely buy a book from anywhere else, because they have such a huge catalog, the process is so easy, and their discounts plus shipping are still less than the prices I'd have to pay at the Borders (now, if only Amazon would send me the Sunday NY Times each weekend...) There's no analog there for music, save for maybe Wal-Mart, and that's an admitedly poor comparison. There will always be people (I'm one of them) that will continue to purchase paper books because of the tactile pleasures they provide. But I think what's happening now with music will eventually happen to books, and similarly to ANY easily duplicatable, easily distributed product. Films and TV programs (that's already beginning); news (blogs, drudge-likes, net-newsites); long distance phone services (voice over net); I'm certain there are others.
I find paper a lot easier on the eyes than anything electronic I've tried so far. And I've proved to my satisfaction that I don't proof well on screen. Wasn't this print-on-demand doodad going to be the next big thingummy?
Me too, on both counts. I vaguely remember the print-on-demand causing people to say things like "So, I pay you for the priviledge of printing your book out on my paper with my toner? Hmph." There will come a book-like digital representation, because people want it, it's already in the realm of imagined (the most prominent example I can think of off the top of my head is the Primer in Stephenson's "Diamond Age"); someone will puzzle it out (google "electronic paper" and watching the results scroll out in front of you), and then the real fun in the industry will begin.
It also seems to me that a proper sewn bind takes a reasonable bit of skill to achieve. I haven't yet seen the machine that will slap your book together at Borders after you email them your PDF, (although I have no evidence of its absence). Anyhoo, the fellow who does my binds is a real artisan. (No link
I actually kind of like trade paperbacks. I find the size & paper stock easier on the eyes than my tiny old paperbacks and I appreciate that they don't weigh as much as hardcover. (Every ounce counts when you have to haul all your possessions to a new home every year.) I suspect some of the rising prices can be attributed to escalating marketing efforts. A few weeks ago, a friend who is a magazine editor showed me what she'd just gotten in the mail - a heavy metal briefcase, stuffed with $1 million in fake bills, a few pages of marketing lit, and a copy of "Finding Your Million Dollar Mate." (A truly crappy book, may I add.) She also told us about a previous promotion where they received something (a CD? a book?) and a live parakeet. Seriously, how does that benefit anyone? I know it's all about the marketing, but I really wish that books were simply put on shelves and allowed to earn their readership. I read a couple books a week, but almost all of them come from my library. If I really enjoy one, I'll go ahead and buy a copy to keep and do my best to convince friends to buy it. I'm also pretty vocal about telling them what drivel (DaVinci Code, anyone?) to avoid.
I don't think I could ever read an entire book on anything but ol' fashioned paper. I had a friend who tried out the ebook/palm pilot combo, and she read the entirety of 'The Corrections' thereon. I looked it over once, but just couldn't imagine huddling over it for periods longer than it takes to look up a date or address. Trade paperbacks are more expensive, but I find that the pages don't fall out with the frequency of those old $2.50 paperbacks. But really, there is almost no need to buy much at retail if you don't want to. Between abebooks.com, amazon's used service and half.com, i have always found just about everything i sought. And my tastes aren't entirely plebian.
The cost of books seem to be widely varying. In Britain, I'm looking at paperback books that cost half again as much or more as Canadian (6-7 pounds versus 8-10 dollars), and hard cover that are crazy.
V for Vendetta
for 17 pounds. Amazing book, but OUCH. And in the used bookstore, they cost what they do new in Canada. Is it cost of production, shipping, etc, or just that the market is different and used to paying more? Groceries aren't more here, though clothing is.
Yes. Yes. Fascinating.
#2 bought a copy of
Catcher in the Rye
while he was in Seattle. It cost $25, paperback. WTF?
He got ripped off. FYI, members of K.R.E.A.P. get 10% off all paperback purchases.
is going out of business after over thirty years in operation.
the good news:
you can get 75% off the price of remaining stock.