The Use of Talking

There is no end of things in the heart.

Bibliomania 101: Sailing toward Bankruptcy

with 2 comments


Book collecting—and I’m not talking about first editions— is an expensive hobby, more expensive with each passing year. The price of books has risen drastically over the years. What was once the price of a hardcover is now the price of a paperback, and what used to be the price of a trade paperback is now the price of a mass-market one.

And that’s only trade books (the ones that get on the bestseller lists and make the tables at Barnes & Noble or the home page at Amazon. I usually buy academic books, and the prices for those are stratospheric. Hardcovers from Oxford or Cambridge often go for more than a hundred dollars; paperbacks from the university presses or a specialty publisher like Eerdmans seem to start at fifty. (Okay, $49.95. I’m not fooled.) I understand the exigencies of academic publishing; I’ve worked for a university press. Personnel, paper, and manufacturing costs go up while library budgets go down. In order to break even, prices have to be high. What’s really galling, are the high prices for academic e-books. Take one of the books in the post above, Daphne Hampson’s Christian Contradictions, published by Cambridge University Press: the hardcover retails for $104.00, the paperback for $43.00, and $34.00 for a zero-manufacturing-cost PDF!  I try really hard to be understanding, but my bibliomaniac’s heart quails.

Yes, sometimes I do pony up the $49.95, or wait for a birthday or Christmas to let someone else do it. If I’m really lucky, I’ll snag a half-price copy at a used-book store. I don’t have access to a university library or hundreds of dollars lying around to get it. At the public library, most academic books don’t circulate. If you want to read them, you have to sit in the library for as long as it takes.(Yes, I have done this.) Inter-library loan is slow and troublesome. My only hope is that the public library will digitize everything and make it all available to cardholders. Not that the publishers are likely to let them.

I’m a law-abiding fellow. I don’t litter or play loud radios on the subway or remove the Do Not Remove tags from pillows. But these days I have a certain sympathy for pirates.

Written by hans castorp

August 23, 2013 at 9:07 am

Posted in Bibliomania

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. gramps, here – If you are still sailing, then you have a chance to steer clear of sand bars, et al. As for me, I have already sunk, and am far beyond anything like bankruptcy. Throw me a lifeline, will ya?

    Tim Spencer

    September 4, 2013 at 9:13 am

  2. […] Bibliomania 101: Sailing toward Bankruptcy (The Use of Talking) […]

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