Sunday, December 14, 2008

General rambling and complaining about the prices of books from major publishers

A couple of nights ago I wandered my way into one of my favorite bookstores. I hadn't been in there in some time, at least six months, and was surprised by the price of the books.

See, for the last couple of years at least I've been a cheap bastard when it comes to books. I read all the time. But I don't think I've actually paid cash for a book in longer than a year. I've received free books for doing reviews, free books at one or another of my newspaper jobs, I've been given books by friends and family, I won a contest and got a free shopping card to a bookstore and I've actually found ... yes, found ... tons of books. I found one book at work and no one claimed it. I found another book at a restaurant and no one claimed it. And I found a whole box full of books outside an apartment building with a little sign reading, "Free books to anyone who wants them."

And let me add that for the last couple of years I've spent most of my book-buying time in used bookstores. There are five or six used bookstores within a few blocks of my current residence.

So, I've not actually bought a new book in a good while.

The prices of the new books shocked me. Okay, I can understand $25 for a new hardback. But it sure as heck better be written by a big-name author with whom I'm familiar. No, wait, the big-name author's hardbacks are selling for $45. It's the nobodies who have hardbacks selling for $25.

And paperbacks? $7.99. Are ya freakin' kidding me?!?

Okay. So call me out of touch. Call me naive. Call me cheap.

But I'm not going to pay those prices. Especially in this economy.

I'm sorry, but there's no way in hell a paperback should cost more than the minimum wage. Even back in the '80s when I was making $3.35 an hour at my grocery store job in high school, I could still pick up a new paperback for $2.50 or less.

Call me a communist. I don't care. Book prices should not be that steep.

I'm not blaming the writers or the publishers or editors, at least not entirely. I realize paper is expensive. I'm in the newspaper business after all, we use the cheapest paper you can get, and it's still pretty expensive even in bulk. I understand people have to make a living. I understand it takes a lot of work and time to get a book from the writer's computer all the way to the shelves of my local bookstores.

But ... come on, folks. Somethings wrong here. Major publishers are always griping about how they never make any money, and now they're restructuring and laying people off and maybe even some of them folding. Major bookstore chains are always complaining that they actually lost money on the latest New York Times bestseller. The majority of writers and editors I know aren't making a lot of greenbacks, and neither are the small publishers.

My guess? It's distribution and printing that are the biggest costs.

But someone somewhere is making money. And not all of them are named Stephen King.


NewGuyDave said...

So I guess this means that POD and self published paperback titles at $14.99+ are out then. lol

I agree totally with you for a hardcover. I think there, publishers are pounding away on the impatient and those who have to have it first. The last time I bought a hardcover, it was used and only $2.

Honestly, I don't find paperbacks all that high. They've risen in price slowly over the years. Utilities and groceries have gone up in price faster.

I try not to pay more than $10 for a book, but then, I rationalize that against a $10 movie ticket which expires after a few hours. It's just a different way of thinking.

Clark said...

I had to seriously cut back on my Amazon addiction. I was spending too much on books. Over the past few months I have leaned the value of having a library less than a block from my house. Plus I found a nice bargain outlet store that always has a bunch of books priced cheap.

Cheap is good!

Ty Johnston said...

The hardback prices don't bother me too much. Hardbacks have always been a bit pricey, and yep, they're for the impatient or the collectors mostly.

But I still think $7.99 is twice what the price should be for most paperbacks, unless it's a paperback by a well-known author or maybe the book is a huge seller.

Ty Johnston said...

And I wanted to add, I think paperback prices are okay if its for one of those huge, thick fantasy epic novels. I don't mind paying $7.99 for something 700 or more pages, but I've seen a lot of 250 page paperbacks by authors I've never heard of selling for $7.99.

Jordan Lapp said...


Luke said...

Maybe it's just from working at one, but I've started checking stuff out of the library almost exclusively. It has to be pretty special for me to buy it.

Then again I am notoriously cheap, and possibly a communist.