My Gripe

Why are books about libraries and library science so expensive? Is there a book out there under $40? Does a book on booktalks really have as much information as a book on learning a programming language? Wouldn't they sell more if they were cheaper? Print on demand should make publishing costs almost non-existent. Its a crime I tell ya, a crime!

Comments

Because

...the good publishers (ALA Editions, for example), spend serious money on copy-editing and design. Because professional indexing costs money (pretty much wiped out my advance for First Have Something to Say, for example). Because library books have short runs, so must cover costs over a smaller number of copies. (A library book that sells >2000 copies over its life is a good seller!)

Oh yes, and because the good publishers also spend money on publicity--circulars, conference booths, review copies.

Printing one-off doesn't really affect those costs; it's more expensive for the individual piece than even short-run printing of at least 200-300 copies.

And some ALA Editions books are under $40; mine, for example, at least when they first came out. The only book of mine that ever cost more than $40 in its first edition was the self-published one, and that's because at the time it was horrendously expensive to produce individual copies.

Now, if you're saying that lots of library books aren't worth what they cost, that's a different argument, one I'm not willing to dispute.

I wonder...

Do books about libraries and library science depreciate as quickly as the computer books? Is there a whole aisle at some technical bookstore dedicated to $2 copies of 2-year-old editions, the way there is at MicroCenter to the computer books?

Re:Because

Well, those are both good reasons but there is software out now that will do the indexing. I doubt its perfect but I would think it seriously cuts the labor part back.

I doubt it would work but I wonder if there isn't someway that if you buy a book you then have access to it online in a searchable form. Some reference books do this...

Re:I wonder...

Yes and no. New books come out and if you couldn't afford to buy the older books you're not going to buy both the new books and the old books. And once they go out of print they are very hard to track down. There are some very interesting library books that are very hard to come by now.

Re:Because

"There is software out now that will do the indexing"--thus substituting pure mechanization for human skill. In fact, doing a good book index is a skilled activity; I've done it myself a couple of times (being cheap), and I didn't actually begrudge the costs this time around. (Let me clarify that: I prepared my own indexes for some books, but I wouldn't use the term "good.")

In any case, that particular cost affects the author more than the consumer.

The key thing here is that a lot of library books are published, selling into a relatively small market; if software references only sold an average of 1,000 copies, you can bet they'd be more expensive (as it is, they're pretty pricey for what they are).

I'm inclined to believe PoD should replace traditional printing for some library books, but that's not likely to lower prices, since PoD is a relatively expensive per-item process.

As for online access: Some publishers should be moving to such provision, but I would note that the reference works usually cost a lot more than $25-$35! (At least one of my ALA Editions books is available as an ebook from netLibrary, actually...)

Re:I wonder...

Relatively few books in the library field show up in bookstores; they're mostly sold direct from publishers or via approval plans. At least that's my experience...

In general, though, library science books don't age as rapidly (with some exceptions)--but they do go out of print, as Greg says, and they can be tough to find once OP.

Re:I wonder...

Oops. Add to that first sentence "or online booksellers"--Amazon & B&N can usually provide most new librarianship books.

Re:Because

I'm with Walt on this. I think a good index is absolutely essential to a non-fiction title, and you can't robotize it.

Can you compare costs

I noticed in USAToday (I think) and article that showed that housing is actually cheaper today (per sq. ft.) than in 1950, and heating costs particularly are lower. Is there a way for you to look at page costs of say 30 years ago compared to avg. income and see if you might actually be getting more for your money in 2005?

Re:Can you compare costs

That's an excellent question, one that would require a little research somewhere that you could locate librarianship book prices in 1975.

I know that my books are relatively cheaper than in 1975--that is, the book prices have stayed roughly the same or gone up a little during that period. (I also know that my ALA Editions books have been priced lower than a lot of other, even smaller-run, ALA Editions books.) On a per-page basis? Well, they're shorter--because that's what librarians seem to want.

But that's anecdotal. A broader study might be interesting.

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