View Full Version : A baffling pricing question


seeeker
03-28-2010, 07:03 AM
I can understand when a book is out of print and highly sought after, it would command a premium price on the used market, like Amazon marketplace, or eBay.

But why would the same book also command a premium as an e-Book, specifically the Kindle?

I was looking at "The Fantastic Sublime: Romanticism and Transcendence in Nineteenth-Century Children's Fantasy Literature," and while the print copies are going for around $100, the Kindle Edition is also prohibitively priced at $88. What the h**l is that about? You're not even buying the buying the book itself, you're basically renting a digital version. It's not on your shelves to be adored, but can be duplicated and resold endlessly. So this is pure profit. Why not sell it at face value?

So if there is no supply/demand factor, and you don't really own the book (referring to past news issues with e-books being remotely deleted or managed because of copyright issues) why are they gouging customers so blatantly? Why do people choose to be ripped off so much? I don't get it.

HarryT
03-28-2010, 07:08 AM
If you think it's too expensive, don't buy it. A seller has a perfect right to ask whatever they wish for an e-book, just as the customer has a right not to buy it if they feel it's too expensive.

If the seller has put a lot of work into creating the e-book, and they feel it's a very limited market for it, that may explain the high price. Perhaps to some people it's worth $88.

wallcraft
03-28-2010, 08:33 AM
This looks like a book priced to gouge college students. The ebook version is in the TOPAZ format, which usually means OCR based with little quality control. Even though Amazon creates TOPAZ ebooks, the price is set by the publisher. In this case the list price is the same as the paper version, presumably to protect paper book sales.

HarryT
03-28-2010, 09:41 AM
"gouge" is an unpleasant accusation to make. If the publisher knows that the book is only going to sell a very limited number of copies in an academic field, then the price has to be high to repay the cost of production. As a former textbook author myself, I know only too well the very high costs that can be associated with the production of such a book,

kindlekitten
03-28-2010, 10:22 AM
sometimes Amazon responds favorably to queries about overpriced ebooks

Joebill
03-28-2010, 10:33 AM
When I was in university, I bought my books. Almost all of them hardcover with a few paperback. I noticed that one of the books I had to buy, was written by the professor teaching that same class.

I felt that since he had essentially a captive audience, we get a dollar or two off the price. It didn't happen.

I did ask the bookstore, not owned by the university, and they said that publisher contracts wouldn't allow it.

I asked him, and he said it couldn't be done. And smirked.

I'm sure there are legal reasons why it couldn't be done. But instead of explaning them, he just smirked. Like I was an idiot. I'm not, I'm willing to listen.

kacir
03-28-2010, 10:58 AM
When I was in university, ... I noticed that one of the books I had to buy, was written by the professor teaching that same class.
...
I asked him, and he said it couldn't be done. And smirked.


When I was at the university, there were professors that required that during the exam you present that you have his book. Then book had to be unsigned. Then he signed the book for you, so next year all class had to purchase their own new ones. Without having the book signed you did not have chance to go through the exam successfully.
Now, THAT is what I call gouging.

kindlekitten
03-28-2010, 01:25 PM
When I was at the university, there were professors that required that during the exam you present that you have his book. Then book had to be unsigned. Then he signed the book for you, so next year all class had to purchase their own new ones. Without having the book signed you did not have chance to go through the exam successfully.
Now, THAT is what I call gouging.

:smack:THAT'S incredible!

TGS
03-28-2010, 02:19 PM
"gouge" is an unpleasant accusation to make. If the publisher knows that the book is only going to sell a very limited number of copies in an academic field, then the price has to be high to repay the cost of production. As a former textbook author myself, I know only too well the very high costs that can be associated with the production of such a book,

The academic book market seems to run very differently from the commercial market. I would guess that pricing is based on an assumption by the publishers that most sales are going to be to academic libraries and are commensurately high - the libraries are going to buy it anyway, but this is going to move a relatively small number of books. I had a recent experience though that made me question the margins on academic books. A prof of mine recently wrote a book and offered to run an optional course on it. The retail price of the book was about 120. Knowing that no-one would buy it at that price he negotiated with the publisher to let us have it for 50 if at least 15 of us agreed to buy it. We manged to get 15 to agree and duly got out books. What that made me think though was that the publisher was probably not losing money on the deal, and if that's right then the mark-up on a full-price book would be something in the region of 60%.

The author will never make anything out of the book (in fact he even contributed to publication costs because he thought a small number of colour plates were essential, the publisher disagreed but agreed to include them if the author paid for them!) Against all that I realize that a good deal of world class academic work would never see the light of day if academic publishers were not doing what they are doing. But it does seem that a good deal of publication costs go into production - the ideal situation for producing ebooks I would have thought.

ficbot
03-28-2010, 03:28 PM
When I was at the university, there were professors that required that during the exam you present that you have his book. Then book had to be unsigned. Then he signed the book for you, so next year all class had to purchase their own new ones. Without having the book signed you did not have chance to go through the exam successfully.
Now, THAT is what I call gouging.

I am sure that would be illegal here, or at least, the university would step in if students complained. I remember there being a rule that every professor had to put at least one copy of every reading for the course on reserve at the library (this was a special section where you could only sign out the books for two hours at a time and they could not leave the library) so that students who could not afford to buy them would still have access to the course materials.

delphidb96
03-28-2010, 06:12 PM
I can understand when a book is out of print and highly sought after, it would command a premium price on the used market, like Amazon marketplace, or eBay.

But why would the same book also command a premium as an e-Book, specifically the Kindle?

I was looking at "The Fantastic Sublime: Romanticism and Transcendence in Nineteenth-Century Children's Fantasy Literature," and while the print copies are going for around $100, the Kindle Edition is also prohibitively priced at $88. What the h**l is that about? You're not even buying the buying the book itself, you're basically renting a digital version. It's not on your shelves to be adored, but can be duplicated and resold endlessly. So this is pure profit. Why not sell it at face value?

So if there is no supply/demand factor, and you don't really own the book (referring to past news issues with e-books being remotely deleted or managed because of copyright issues) why are they gouging customers so blatantly? Why do people choose to be ripped off so much? I don't get it.


The solution is simple, find a library copy, check it out, scan it onto your computer and generate your own ebook - formatted the way you want.

Derek

RobbieClarken
03-28-2010, 09:20 PM
"gouge" is an unpleasant accusation to make. If the publisher knows that the book is only going to sell a very limited number of copies in an academic field, then the price has to be high to repay the cost of production. As a former textbook author myself, I know only too well the very high costs that can be associated with the production of such a book,

Harry, are you saying a publisher sets the price just to cover their costs? That if they could charge a higher price for a popular book, while maintaining the sales numbers, they would choose to forego the extra profit? That seems very altruistic of them.

I think a more realistic view is publishers charge whatever price they expect will maximise their profit and for certain types of books, like textbooks, there is less competition (or trapped customers) so they can set a higher price.

I don't like the term "gouging" because it suggests that publishers are behaving differently than other producers in a market economy. In reality, all producers charge the highest price they can which will maximise profit. If people don't like the outcome in an industry they should look for ways to promote competition rather than attacking the producers for doing what profit motive dictates they should do.

HarryT
03-29-2010, 03:14 AM
Harry, are you saying a publisher sets the price just to cover their costs? That if they could charge a higher price for a popular book, while maintaining the sales numbers, they would choose to forego the extra profit? That seems very altruistic of them.


No, I'm saying that books published in specialist academic fields have a very restricted appeal, and that, in such fields, you will generally not sell more copies by reducing the price. The price per book therefore has to be relatively high to be able to economically justify publishing it at all.

Jellby
03-29-2010, 05:59 AM
When I was at the university, there were professors that required that during the exam you present that you have his book. Then book had to be unsigned. Then he signed the book for you, so next year all class had to purchase their own new ones. Without having the book signed you did not have chance to go through the exam successfully.

There are universities and universities, and professors and professors. When I was a student, at least two of my professors proudly gave away copies of their books to all students in the class ;)

kacir
03-29-2010, 12:08 PM
There are universities and universities, and professors and professors. When I was a student, at least two of my professors proudly gave away copies of their books to all students in the class ;)
Make no mistake, the vast majority of my professors were great experts, wonderful people and passionate teachers. I have been very lucky in this regard. But no matter where you go, you always find at least one disagreeable person.

Also, this was quite a long time ago. I can not imagine something like that happening nowadays. Today students have much more power in their hands. Even back then this rose quite an outrage. This is why I remember it clearly.
The textbooks in question were ones published directly by our university - A4 sized "paperbacks" made by quite primitive printing and binding technology.

Ben Thornton
03-29-2010, 07:39 PM
Given the low cost of self-publishing, through lulu and the like, it seems strange to me that academic print runs are so expensive. I suppose that there is a kudos element of being published by a "proper" academic press. Now that there is no real economic reason for such books to be expensive, I can't see it lasting.

HarryT
03-30-2010, 02:56 AM
Given the low cost of self-publishing, through lulu and the like, it seems strange to me that academic print runs are so expensive. I suppose that there is a kudos element of being published by a "proper" academic press. Now that there is no real economic reason for such books to be expensive, I can't see it lasting.

The high cost is due to the fact that academic books have to be rigorously proofed and peer-reviewed, to a far higher standard than novels. Editing/proofing is always an expensive process; with academic books, the cost of it can only be offset against a small number of sales, hence the high unit cost.

TGS
03-30-2010, 05:54 AM
The high cost is due to the fact that academic books have to be rigorously proofed and peer-reviewed, to a far higher standard than novels. Editing/proofing is always an expensive process; with academic books, the cost of it can only be offset against a small number of sales, hence the high unit cost.

Peer review I can agree with, but you should read the 130 book I referred to earlier - the proofing is terrible. Admittedly it is written by a non-native English speaker, but there are basic errors such that I find it difficult to believe the publisher did any proofreading at all.

Shaggy
03-30-2010, 12:53 PM
"gouge" is an unpleasant accusation to make.

How about "scam" then. If someone can't see that the textbook market is a racket, then they must be extremely naive.

As a former textbook author myself

Ah, that clears it up, thanks.

MovieBird
03-30-2010, 11:07 PM
How about "scam" then. If someone can't see that the textbook market is a racket, then they must be extremely naive.

Agree.

There is no reason undergraduate Physics and Math books should cost so damn much, as the theorems have been around for over a hundred years in almost all cases. I hear that Biology changes constantly, but I can't think of anything else where undergraduate level work changes at all within a decade.

OK, programming, but most of the algorithms are old.

HarryT
03-31-2010, 03:43 AM
Agree.

There is no reason undergraduate Physics and Math books should cost so damn much, as the theorems have been around for over a hundred years in almost all cases.

But academic standards have not remained the same; as the range of subjects taught in schools has widened, the depth of knowledge taught in maths and sciences has fallen. 30 years ago, an undergraduate physics textbook could assume that the reader knew what a "line integral" or a "2nd order ordinary differential equation" was; today, people are going to university to study physics, having barely been introduced to elementary calculus, and a textbook used when I was a student in the late 1970s would be incomprehensible. Textbooks are constantly having to be revised, therefore, to match the syllabuses set by the school examination boards. Even the textbooks I wrote myself in the mid '90s can no longer be used, for that reason - they are now considered to be too "hard".

astra
03-31-2010, 05:19 AM
But academic standards have not remained the same; as the range of subjects taught in schools has widened, the depth of knowledge taught in maths and sciences has fallen. 30 years ago, an undergraduate physics textbook could assume that the reader knew what a "line integral" or a "2nd order ordinary differential equation" was; today, people are going to university to study physics, having barely been introduced to elementary calculus, and a textbook used when I was a student in the late 1970s would be incomprehensible. Textbooks are constantly having to be revised, therefore, to match the syllabuses set by the school examination boards. Even the textbooks I wrote myself in the mid '90s can no longer be used, for that reason - they are now considered to be too "hard".

Ahh...then it is not just me who thinks that once famous British educations is going down the road :(

Soldim
03-31-2010, 06:29 AM
If you think it's too expensive, don't buy it. A seller has a perfect right to ask whatever they wish for an e-book, just as the customer has a right not to buy it if they feel it's too expensive.


And, the customer has the right to complain and to try to convince others these prices are outrageous.

Soldim
03-31-2010, 06:32 AM
The high cost is due to the fact that academic books have to be rigorously proofed and peer-reviewed,

I have peer-reviewed quite a bit, including text books -- and never been paid for it. Hence, one might argue that the review process for academic text-books is more likely to be less expensive compared to standard literature.

HarryT
03-31-2010, 06:41 AM
I have peer-reviewed quite a bit, including text books -- and never been paid for it.

What publisher was that for, as a mater of interest? I used to do a fair amount of peer reviewing of programming books for Wiley, and they paid quite well.

Soldim
03-31-2010, 06:53 AM
What publisher was that for, as a mater of interest? I used to do a fair amount of peer reviewing of programming books for Wiley, and they paid quite well.

Springer and Humana Press (bought by them recently) -- biomedical/life sciences books or chapters.

Soldim
03-31-2010, 06:55 AM
What publisher was that for, as a mater of interest? I used to do a fair amount of peer reviewing of programming books for Wiley, and they paid quite well.

Springer and Humana Press (bought by Springer recently) -- biomedical/life sciences books or chapters.

HarryT
03-31-2010, 07:00 AM
Springer and Humana Press (bought by them recently) -- biomedical/life sciences books or chapters.

With Wiley, at the time I was reviewing for them, you had the choice of $500 in cash, or $1000 in books. I generally went for the books!

Hamlet53
03-31-2010, 09:18 AM
But academic standards have not remained the same; as the range of subjects taught in schools has widened, the depth of knowledge taught in maths and sciences has fallen. 30 years ago, an undergraduate physics textbook could assume that the reader knew what a "line integral" or a "2nd order ordinary differential equation" was; today, people are going to university to study physics, having barely been introduced to elementary calculus, and a textbook used when I was a student in the late 1970s would be incomprehensible. Textbooks are constantly having to be revised, therefore, to match the syllabuses set by the school examination boards. Even the textbooks I wrote myself in the mid '90s can no longer be used, for that reason - they are now considered to be too "hard".

I heard that! A few years ago I was a substitute instructor for first year Calculus at a local community college. When I was given the course syllabus I was shocked to see that the first semester was spent on concepts from algebra and trigonometry that had been taught in the third and fourth years of high school in my day. Limits were not even mentioned until the second semester of the college “Calculus” class.

This whole discussion has given me the idea of a successful model for e-book authors and publishers for negating the income loss from piracy, at least for text books and required reading for classes. That is if e-books ever make a big penetration into this market; likely a slow process for sure. Charge each student a per book fee to take the class with the fee passed on to the publisher for each required e-book. The student can download it for free from the legitimate source, or from some 'darknet' site if that floats his boat.

Doesn't solve the general e-book piracy problem, but it does for a small niche market at least.

MovieBird
03-31-2010, 09:35 AM
But academic standards have not remained the same; as the range of subjects taught in schools has widened, the depth of knowledge taught in maths and sciences has fallen. 30 years ago, an undergraduate physics textbook could assume that the reader knew what a "line integral" or a "2nd order ordinary differential equation" was; today, people are going to university to study physics, having barely been introduced to elementary calculus, and a textbook used when I was a student in the late 1970s would be incomprehensible. Textbooks are constantly having to be revised, therefore, to match the syllabuses set by the school examination boards. Even the textbooks I wrote myself in the mid '90s can no longer be used, for that reason - they are now considered to be too "hard".

The knowledge needed for each theorem taught has not changed. It doesn't matter if I know what a differential is or not before a class if that class is attempting to teach me how about the Navier-Stokes equations.

If I am unprepared there are two options, I can look it up on my own time in another book or on Google, or I can ask another person such as a TA during office hours. Or I can take the third option and fail out of class, which is what should happen if a student is unprepared academically. Claiming that falling academic standards are why textbooks are so high, is ludicrous in that basic principles needed for understanding more advanced principles do not change. You might as well claim that the new generation is not nearly as brave, smart, or hard-working as any previous generation, and end with a "KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN."

HarryT
03-31-2010, 10:05 AM
Claiming that falling academic standards are why textbooks are so high, is ludicrous in that basic principles needed for understanding more advanced principles do not change.

I didn't say that it was the reason that textbook prices were high; I said that it was the reason that textbooks needed to be changed, and why you couldn't just go on using old textbooks indefinitely. If you're writing, let's say, a textbook on quantum mechanics, you need to know what mathematical level your reader is at and if, for example, they don't know vector calculus, then you need to teach them that as a part of your course.

tobarefeet
04-01-2010, 07:19 PM
[QUOTE=HarryT;847832]If you think it's too expensive, don't buy it. A seller has a perfect right to ask whatever they wish for an e-book, just as the customer has a right not to buy it if they feel it's too expensive.

I'm finding that many of the books that I want to buy for my Kindle are virtually the same price as the paperback, often less for paperbacks. In my opinion that is shooting themselves in the foot. I didn't spend $300 on my Kindle to pay the same price I could get the paperback from Amazon or a used bookstore. When a paperback that is listed at $7.99 also sells in Kindle for $7.99 I move on. There are too many books out there to read without feeling like I'm overpaying.
I salute the smart authors that have multi-series paperbacks that give the first book in the series free to hook the reader. That is using Kindle marketing properly.