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Why do books cost so much?
| November 19, 2001
Posted on 11/19/2001 6:07:24 PM PST by JoeSchem
Anyone else notice that the price of books is getting absurd? I mean, a paperback that sold for $.50 in the seventies will now go for $7 or $8. That's way out of line with the general inflation rate.
Then you've got the 'trade' paperbacks, which run to $14 on average. It's been a long time since I've bought a new hard cover, but I believe they're going for $25 on average.
It's the free market -- or is it? You would think that the Computer Revolution would drive down the cost of publication, but it seems to be going the other way!
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The record industry has not only pushed anti-americanism, anarchy, socialism and general lawlessness, they have also lined theior pockets with other people's hard earned cash.
I used to work for Warner Bros. music, and trust me when I say they don't need anymore money. Burn away!
While I'm sure many of these observations about the literary market are true, I'm surprised no one mentioned recycling as a contributing factor. I read a few years ago that paper price increases were largely the result of costs of recycling being passed on to consumers. I've certainly noticed significant increases in things like computer paper, and it seems reasonable that books would be similarly affected. I say: thank the Greens & Liberals for making yet another thing far too expensive--and they're supposed to be in favor of us reading. Oy!
You're right about the deduction being taken away. That was done by a Tax Court (originally, I don't remember if the case was appealed) and the case was about a tool company's stock. The case was used as a precedent to cover books. Small runs, unknown authors, technical subjects, all get short shrift (the word was in English before 900ad) from the publishers. Funny how these things spread.
I hesitate to post this because wider knowledge will drive up the prices of all the obscure books I buy there, but have you tried "abebooks.com"? They're a lot like Bibliofind was before Amazon took it over, with a heavy concentration on stores in the U.K. Between those two places (with an occasional look-in at Half.com), I don't think I've been unable to find anything I've been looking for for about two years now. And my weird literary requirements make Eliot criticism look as rare as Harry Potter.
Give it a try.
posted on 11/19/2001 6:48:41 PM PST
To: Lizzy W
I had a similar situation. School brought in a prof. from another univ to fill a spot. I got that class, had to have a "special" philosophy book that they for sure didn't want back the next semester because that guy wouldn't be back. They didn't even offer me 50 cents for it. I used it to start a fire. Thats about all it was good for.
posted on 11/19/2001 6:49:07 PM PST
Where is the ability to browse scholarly stuff (other than in a library), compare things and check out the bibliography before you buy?
A good question! By the way, it really bothers me when I go the "philosophy" section at some bookstores, and the books there all pertain to astrology/occult/new age studies! Have you ever noticed that? Where's Hegel, Fichte, Plutinus? All I see is Sylvia Browne and Shirley McClaine! What's up with that?
posted on 11/19/2001 6:53:16 PM PST
Children's books are worse. Outrageous prices for real thin books. My kid's have library cards and use them a lot.
I have found many rare classics and philosophy books on Ebay. You might want to give it a try.
Another great place to buy books inexpensively is Strand Books in New York. It is an old style bookstore with very tall tightly spaced shelves packed with used books. The store looks cluttered but I have made some amazing finds in there. I literally spent an entire afternoon just going through their history section (and I was selective about which countries I looked through). Their prices are very good and as an added bonus they sell reviewer copies of all the new books at 50 percent of the cover price. It would probably take a full day to go through that section alone. They have a website now that allows purchasers to search their collection. Their saying is "eight miles of books" but the major downside is I always buy more than I will probably read.
eno_ I second that. Check out Project Gutenberg, too, everybody. etext has tens of thousand of titles. With gutenberg, don't mooch, donate something to offset costs. I have been reading all of the Tom Swift books by Appleton, all online at Gutenberg.
posted on 11/19/2001 7:00:03 PM PST
To: Lizzy W
I paid $190 for absolute BS -- "Societal Factors in Health Promotion". The prof changed the book the next semester, so no buy back.
And when he changed the book for his course the book store had to absorb the loss of the stock they had that became worthless, and so did the the publisher.
posted on 11/19/2001 7:02:14 PM PST
Thanks for the link. I shall check it out! :)
posted on 11/19/2001 7:03:51 PM PST
To: Senator Pardek
Yes, the price of paper in this country is sky-high. And I definitely love to read and I'm willing to pay top-dollar for many a book.
You're probably staring at one of the reason's right this second.
it really bothers me when I go the "philosophy" section at some bookstores, and the books there all pertain to astrology/occult/new age studies!
A similar situation occurred in the Science Fiction book sections about twenty years ago. Science fiction makes you think of robots and spaceships, but in reality about half the books were sword & sorcery!
posted on 11/19/2001 7:11:00 PM PST
To ALL...support a starving publisher check out my books at www.lanchester.com
Indeed, it is a mystery. Akin, I think, to the deep and abiding mystery of why cheese is so expensive. Buy a pound of swiss cheese, for example. It is incredibly expensive, and should be put immediately into your safe deposit box (along with those first edition hardbacks), although eventually one will get wind of it.
On Amazon.com, you can get "used" hardcover books for about $5 that are almost like brand new. I recently obtained the entire Tom Clancy set from "Red October" to "Executive Orders" for less than $50. That's nine hardcover books that would have costed me over $200 to buy new. Every single book is in mint condition.
Hi, my name is Terri and I'm a readaholic...
Here's my theory on the increase in paperback books:
I noticed it getting really out of hand when Oprah started her Book Club stuff. All of a sudden, regular paperback books (decent novels) started going from $3.25 or so to $5.50, then $7.50, etc. Now it's not unusual to see them at $14.50. The only difference in the books is they now are shaped differently than your standard paperbook and have those fancy schmancy matte covers on them. What a crock! It is getting more and more expensive to feed my addiction.
I have to have at least one book available to read. Usually when I start, I don't stop till finished. John Grisham's are the worst for me - I will start one in the afternoon and finish it at 3 am without stopping. I have been savoring Barbara Olson's book for a week now by limiting myself to reading it only in the tub :).
To: Doctor Stochastic
Okay, I have to jump in here, having some first-hand knowledge of the subject. It was the "Thor Power Tools" decision, circa 1979. The IRS, via the courts, changed the way publishers were permitted to amortize the costs of book production. Before Thor publishers could spread the cost over the sales life of the book, for however long it stayed in print, and depreciate unsold inventory. After Thor, publishers had to take all costs in the first three years, and had powerful tax incentives to scrap
all unsold inventory before the three years were up.
The result? Publishers churn inventory faster than ever, continuously produce "new" editions of successful titles in order to re-start the three-year depreciation clock, and give the average new release a 6- to 8-week shelf life. This means there is an enormous amount of waste in the system, and this waste has to be paid for somehow, and by someone.
By the way, when Barnes & Nobles or Borders "returns" a paperback book, they don't actually return it for resale or recycling. They just tear off the cover and send the cover to the publisher, and chuck the rest of the book in the local landfill. Ironic, innit?
posted on 11/19/2001 7:33:12 PM PST
Here's a tip for bookshoppers. Go to ebay and search for the title you are looking for. Even books recently published show up at what is usually a fraction of the retail price. Ask the seller to ship it book/media mail rate and you will often save a pile of money.
People get nice books as gifts, but the subject/author doesn't interest them and they sell them at yard sales, give them to thrift stores, or donate them to churches and libraries for book sales, and "pickers" grab the better ones and put them on ebay, sometimes starting the bid at only a dollar or two. For popular recent fiction books you will often see multiple copies available.
It's not as simple as you think. Publishing IS driven by the free market. Competition is extremely intense, printing costs are high, and publishers generally have a lot of overhead, warehousing costs, etc.
Publishers charge what the market will bear. If they're charging $7.00 for a mass market paperback, it's because people will pay it and not think twice. I know I would't.
I do draw the line at $25 hardcovers, though. Just wait 6 months and it'll be out in paperback for $14.95 - I guarantee it.
For the record, I'm in the publishing industry...
Actually, my press is not leftist - quite the contrary. Too bad we're still tiny. Honestly, you're right - most of the big houses are hard left.
To: Lizzy W
"Molecular Biology of the Cell"
Published by Garland/Taylor & Francis, perhaps?
I buy a lot of books, mostly new, many hardback, but all at deeply discounted prices, remainder table prices and some used prices, 25 cents at a local library. I've learned to be patient - a new hardback sometimes arrives at a local HalfPrice Books outlet, as a $7 remainder, before even the $12 paperback is out. Reviewer copies if you reside in one of, uhm, cultural capitals, can be good early deals. Then there's HALF.COM, MYSIMON.COM. And, of course, there is always the library.
Don't feed the multinational publishing/recording industries rackets!
Well, I used to manage a B&N and I can tell you that the profit margin in the book industry is very thin indeed. Even though there are huge superstores, they run an extraordinarily tight ship. The largest cost in the book industry is transportation (from the publisher to the wholesaler, and from the wholesaler to the bookstore). Think about how heavy your typical hardcover bestseller is, then imagine about 25 of those books in a box. Mulitply that by 20-40 boxes of that title per store. Ad infinitum. Those boxes are heavy, and it costs quite a bit to ship them out to the stores. Also, the books don't go directly from, say, Bantam to B&N -- they go through a wholesaler like Ingram first (additional markup and shipping expense).
I haven't read through this whole thread, so forgive me if this has been posted already.
On Saturday mornings, check out the local garage sales, especially in upscale neighborhoods. There are lots of book boxes that get overlooked. Often, these books are in great shape.
Also, keep your eye on eBay (FINAL DAYS by BKO is now $9.99) and other auction sites. You'll never pay retail prices again.
At Amazon, you can search for not only new books, but also used books.
Lastly, check your local public libraries. They usually get lots of donated books that they refuse to shelf and turn right around and sell them at their monthly (at least periodic) book sales.
I was a bit surprised by the $27 I had to pay for Barbara Olson's new book. As books go, it's on the slim side.
It was worth every penny, just to support her memory. In fact, I bought two.
I was looking for a set of the Narnia series for my son...$55! I'm just not paying that, and I'm surprised that people do.
Our library cards get quite a workout.
posted on 11/19/2001 7:56:46 PM PST
I spent $200 for three books and a half share of a dead cat. I'm taking one class. I'd hate to be taking four.
Comment #79 Removed by Moderator
Comment #80 Removed by Moderator
Well, for those to whom thinking is an alien concept, new age quasi-occult studies (the real thing would be too hard) are
philosophical works of great power and difficutly. They'd be better off sticking with A.E. Houseman and ale:
...Ale, man Ale's stuff to drink
for fellows whom it hurts to think.....
Heaven forbid that the person who thinks Norman Vincent Peale (I date myself) profound would find him(or her)self face to face with Bertrand Russell's Unpopular Essays [Some words which might be beyond an unusually stupid child of ten admitted the author] or Hegel or Nietzsche. My goodness, what would they make of Hume? Berkeley? [When I see a red patch, is it really a red patch?] Cheers!
I bought a complete hardcover set of Shakespeare's plays (several volumes) for two bucks at a neighborhood garage sale. Old books, but mint condition. Also have found sets of Poe, Mark Twain and other classics. I watch like a hawk for these sales. I love the classics!
To: cajunjim1963; ChemistCat; Old Student
I will be delivering my best Why Books Ain't Cheap (especially textbooks) Economics 101.1 lecture in the morning, when I'm not so tired. Anyone who is interested in another Chemistcat Thomas Sowell Groupie Moment, stand by.
One word: paper.
The only type of book which justifiably costs more is a volume of poetry (for obvious reasons:no one reads poetry.) Only bestsellers are available at low cost (eventually) through book clubs, where they are sometimes literally free. For the rest, blame it on the Teamsters, other unions, and just plain greed. Much is invested in authors (advances, etc.) but mostly nothing is guaranteed any author the way it was in the old days. Only the "book contract" is guaranteed, which usually means a small limited advance, or a series of a few advances, then a percentage of loosely defined profits. Consider how much Simon and Schuster (is that the publisher?) is gonna lose on the foolhardy 8 mil. advance to HRC. After 9/11 the Clintons are finally seen by most as the irrelevancies they always were. The publishers didn't count on, and couldn't foresee 9/11. That kind of advance money depended entirely\ on the ability of the Clinton PR machine to keep her and Bill somewhere in the news as "controversial" people, whereas History has happily rendered them null and void.
Don't ever try to sell books to the Strand. They offer virtually nothing even for high-quality stuff in great shape.
"Why do books cost so much? "
books don't cost, its the $8,000,000 advance...she won't sell any anyway...
posted on 11/19/2001 8:18:05 PM PST
No, the price of paper has little to do with it. As an example: I just bought several reams of Great White recycled paper from Office Depot today. The cost for 500 sheets of bright white was about $6...if I'd wanted nonrecycled paper, I could have had it for half that. On the other hand, I purchased a 498 page book on building secure XML web databases from Amazon the other day. The cost? $55. I'd bet dollars for donuts that they didn't pay $6 for the paper in that book.
With this issue, at least, the enviros have little involvement.
Only the bookstores profit from this system.
Uh, some of the publishers are doing quite well too. I speak from personal experience(s) with major publishing houses. The standard royalty fee is 15% of wholesale. But there is a lot of fooling around with international sales that drives the percent even lower. Don't worry, the publishers are making millions!
posted on 11/19/2001 8:23:07 PM PST
""Books don't grow on trees you know.:^))
how many trees must die for mrs bill klinton's book???
posted on 11/19/2001 8:28:05 PM PST
The ppb--or paper, printing, and binding--cost of books has climbed steadily over the years that the materials, mostly paper, have become more expensive, and ppb now accounts for over one-quarter of the retail price. The bookseller gets about half. The royalties are 15% on hardcovers. That leaves 10% for everything else---overhead that is not part of the cost of the individual book, plus profit. Only when a book sells in great quantities does the publisher make any real money. That is why they pay the big advances. Everyone is looking for the winning horse that will pay for all the other books.
My dad, who runs a new and used bookstore, says that the Internet is destroying the business for used books. He was on the Internet years ago, and did well selling books, but now everyone is doing it. People call him, and want to know how much a book is worth, just so they can get a starting price for putting it on eBay themselves. Or they're just trying to get rid of a book that they couldn't get to sell on there. "Rare" books have dozens of copies online, and none of them are selling. And anything published after 1940 is now worthless. A book needs to be unique now to be worth anything. Even autographed books aren't worth much now; they need to be to a particular person to have value.
posted on 11/19/2001 8:33:09 PM PST
You might want to shop Ebay or check with your local used bookstores.
When you buy from ebay, make sure you ask the Seller if it's from a smoke-free home. Otherwise, you'll get burned with stinky (and I do mean reeking!) books. The combination of an old musty book + decades of smoke = a very bad smelling book! (And no, the schmuck wouldn't give me a refund. It was expensive, too!)
Used bookstores are better because you can at least sniff the books before you buy.
I mean, a paperback that sold for $.50 in the seventies will now go for $7 or $8. That's way out of line with the general inflation rate.
Youre wrong. Paperbacks did not cost .50 in the 70's. They cost between $1.25 and $2.00. The minimum wage during the same period was about $1.30 per hour. So you had to work about an hour at minimum wage to buy a book. You also had to work about 2.5 hours at minimum wage to buy a record album. Right now you have to work about 2.5 hours at minimum wage to buy a CD.
Also, the average fiction novel in the 1970's was about 250 pages max. Today it is not uncommon for a novel (like Stephen King) to run about 700 pages. Most of my paperback collection for 1970's books are a LOT thinner than the books being sold today. Thus, page for page the books today are a better bargain (however most of the stuff being written today is trash).
To: Revolting cat!
... a new hardback sometimes arrives at a local HalfPrice Books outlet, as a $7 remainder
You're right, the Half Price Books outlets are great. I just got some brand new Williams Sonoma cookbooks there the other day for Christmas presents. I think they were less than half price actually. I love those stores!
posted on 11/19/2001 8:40:24 PM PST
To: Lizzy W
"Yall are getting off cheap. My science texts cost $150 - $200 per book. It's such a friggin racket. "
I know what you mean. Having graduated last year, I have experienced this myself. Don't forget the professors who use a book that will be replaced the next semester. Of course, you pay full price for it because there are no used copies available. When you turn it in, you are lucky to get any money whatsoever because it was discontinued. Then there are the buyback policies that stink. When they buy the books back, you take such a loss that it is pathetic. Often times I would sell the book at the amount that the bookstore would offer to another student, just to be a stinker. Or I would give other books away rather then let the highway robbers have the business. Petty, I know, but it felt good.
Large publishers work on a 300-to-500 percent mark-up based on large prints and often having the printing done out of country. A hardcover book selling for example at $40.00 is wholesaled to the distributors on an average of fifty percent off. The publisher's markup is based on the wholesale price. However, small publishers are unable to compete with these manufacturing costs of the large publishers. Small prints cost much more and more often, small publishers print in the USA which costs more than in China, India or Mexico.
The cost of advertising also is extremely expensive as a full page color ad in VFW or American Legion magazine runs more than thirty thousand dolars for one issue. The country is broken down into three regions, East Coast, Mid West and West Coast. Advertising can be run in a magazine by region or the entire country, the latter costing the full price. Obviously, small presses can not afford the advertising costs in major magazines for a sustained period of time.
There are also heavy costs if a lot of photos (particularly color) are included in a book that raises the price substantially. And the initial typesetting is expensive, but this is a one time only charge as the negatives and plates are used for more than one print. These are just some of the costs that raise the prices of books other than the more obvious costs for overhead, lawyers, authors etc.
Usually a book, for the purpose of distribution and cost can be looked upon as a vase, with the neck representing the hard copy, the middle as the soft cover and the bottom as the remainder which is the least expensive way to buy a book. The average life span of a book (except reference books) is about six months before it passes down the neck.For example, Colin Powell's book initially came out in the winter of 1993 at a price of $23.00, later moved to soft cover and now it probably sells at a low remainder price.
To: Carry_Okie; Jeff Head
One of the best books I found on ebay was a biography on Trelawny (Shelley's friend -- the one who reached into the pyre for his heart). What a story! Trelawny was a pirate -- what an incredible life he lived! If you want to read a good swashbuckling tale that is totally true, look no further than Trelawny
by Margaret Armstrong. You'll be daydreaming for days. And yes, his life was totally un-PC, which is why it's so fascinating.
(If you buy it on ebay, make sure you get it from a smoke-free home, and make sure it's not musty -- or you won't be able to read it.)
Darn few bookstores ten years ago were even half the size of a typical Borders or Barnes & Noble.
I have almost never found anything worth reading--at any price--in stores like that one.
I infinitely prefer the adventure of browsing in shops that sell used books, and I rarely leave such a shop without at least one or two treasured bargains.
And I never buy paperbacks. Never.
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