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Old 03-28-2010, 07:03 AM   #1
seeeker
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A baffling pricing question

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.
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Old 03-28-2010, 07:08 AM   #2
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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.
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Old 03-28-2010, 08:33 AM   #3
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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.
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Old 03-28-2010, 09:41 AM   #4
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"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,
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Old 03-28-2010, 10:22 AM   #5
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sometimes Amazon responds favorably to queries about overpriced ebooks
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Old 03-28-2010, 10:33 AM   #6
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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.
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Old 03-28-2010, 10:58 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Joebill View Post
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.
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Old 03-28-2010, 01:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kacir View Post
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.
THAT'S incredible!
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Old 03-28-2010, 02:19 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
"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.
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Old 03-28-2010, 03:28 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by kacir View Post
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.
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Old 03-28-2010, 06:12 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by seeeker View Post
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
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Old 03-28-2010, 09:20 PM   #12
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"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.

Last edited by RobbieClarken; 03-28-2010 at 09:23 PM.
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Old 03-29-2010, 03:14 AM   #13
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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.
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Old 03-29-2010, 05:59 AM   #14
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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
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Old 03-29-2010, 12:08 PM   #15
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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.
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