Tour’s Books Blog

February 20, 2009

The High Cost of Books

Filed under: Editorial — toursbooks @ 2:01 am

If you’re like me, you buy over a hundred books a year.  Lately, closer to 200 books a year.  Scary, huh?  At an average of $8/book, that’s a LOT of money.  ebooks save money, but for my favorite authors and books I like to share, there’s just no substitutes for a book in the hand.  I try and buy deeply discounted hardcovers – often cheaper than a paperback, take advantage of Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion, have a discount card at Barnes and Nobel, even buy used – though if shipping is involved it is often no bargain.  Still, even with all that, the escalating costs of books is getting to be a real problem for me – and I’m pretty sure for others as well.

The latest way publishers have of increasing costs is to take what looks like a popular title – well known authors, hot subjects – and print the slightly oversized paperback (7.5 inches tall as opposed to the standard 6.75 inches both 4.25 wide) and increase the price to $9.99.  Others go for the even larger format of 8.25 by 5.5 inches and crank the price to $14 to $17!  At that price I can get a hardcover at Costco!  And I confess, I do buy some authors in hardcover.

Dear Author has noted a number of fairly significant changes in the publishing business just in the past month that should worry all readers.  It’s more than staffing cuts at booksellers and publishing houses, it’s closing whole divisions within a publisher, shutting down new and joint ventures, and issues with distribution of books and magazines.  Much as I love being online and connected, I still want the familiar comfort of book in hand when relaxing, especially my favorite authors.  But these changes go beyond just holding a book, it goes to how new authors get published and THAT is a huge deal.

How many of you have read your favorite authors lately and wondered if they were just phoning it in?  I sure have.  It cuts across genres, publishers, and authors.  Stuart Woods, Jack Higgins, Janet Evanovich, Stephen Hunter, Robert B. Parker, Tom Clancy – the cottage industry, Clive Cussler – the family business, and many others.  What the heck happened?  I want a great story – or at the very least a good story, not some pulp that makes Sidney Sheldon look brilliant!  Shame on the lot of them and shame on the editors and publishers for being more interested in the cash form a mediocre book with unforgivable editing and proofreading errors and the authors for turning out tripe.  And really, we readers must share this blame because we buy it!!!!!!!

More than that, how will we ever get new authors out there to find an audience?  What about those authors with smaller, but dedicated followers?  I realize the complex relationships and profit needs for everyone along the chain from author to reader needs to be paid, but I do feel cheated when authors and publishers trade off past quality and reader dedication to basically rip us off with lousy books.  Maybe authors can only produce one quality book every 2 years, not every year.  That’s OK.  I prefer otherwise, but I’d rather wait and get a quality product than have these derivative, generic, unoriginal books coming out these days.  Shame on the authors for short changing the readers.  And shame on us for allowing this to happen by continuing to buy mediocre books on the strength of an authors name!

Whatever the outcome of the business contraction the entire nation is undergoing, it is inevitable that traditional publishing will change along with everything else.  Perhaps more so.  Technology is changing so many traditional forms of entertainment, publishers just seem slower to embrace it and its potential for new markets.  Much as I love books, I can see a time in the not too distant future where the majority of my purchases will be electronic, not because it’s what I want, but because it’s what I can afford.

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