I spotted two items on Facebook yesterday that made me smile, and then scratch my head. The first was a cartoon, in which the character was shown with a hardback book. He first just held it in his hand, then opened it, buried his nose in it, took a huge sniff, and sighed -- looking as if he had just taken a large hit of cocaine. It went along with a comment about the joys of attending the BEA and being surrounded by all those "real books."
Well, yes, I could sympathize, as i suspect most medievalists could. There's a distinctive smell to real books, especially to old ones, and it becomes as distinctive and familiar as your mother's favorite cologne. Most academics love books and would gladly live in a house where bookshelves stretched from wall to wall, floor to ceiling.Dangle a history book in front of me and you have my attention.
But the second posting was a message from Amazon, touting their latest collection of new history books. There were several I'd like to read, even if they haven't had time to take on the aura of an old book. But the prices! My God! The cheapest one was $72.00; most in the $90.00 to $100.00 range. Granted, that was for a hard cover. The paperbacks were in the $25.00 to $35.00 range, and the Kindles around $15.00 to $25.00. But still . . . Ouch!
What are publishers thinking? How many people spend $100.00 for a single book unless it is in their own very narrow specially? And if it is, there won't be many people interested. I read lots of articles about what's happening to the publishing industry, but these two items really brought it home to me.
Traditional publishers find the answer to declining sales and income by RAISING their prices? What's wrong with this picture? Everything I know about self-publishing says that the way to increase sales is to lower prices. What the seller loses with a low price gets made up for by sky-rocketing sales.
I live on a fixed income these days, except for my own book sales, so I don't play the stock market often. But I'm glad that the few shares I do own are in Apple, not Random House.