Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's as if I had an Amazon wishlist

About a year and a half ago my reading group read a book related to my primary scholarly subfield. It was long, and parts of it I didn't have time to read carefully, but what I did read blew me away. I knew I'd be going back to it, and I wanted my own copy. . . but the damn thing was more than $150.

A couple of months later I heard an excellent paper on a similar topic, and when I learned that it was derived from the presenter's newly-published book, I made a note to look for it. Once again, the price deterred me: $95.

Well! Patience is sometimes rewarded: last night I got an email from a journal asking if I'd be interested in reviewing both books. If so, they'd ship my copies right away.

It's a racket, I know--and the bigger issue is that a certain Cambridge University Press doesn't price its books so that faculty and grad students can actually afford them--but 24 hours later I'm still dancing around my apartment, emitting occasional squeals of joy.

11 comments:

Renaissance Girl said...

Ooooh! I'm doing a little dance of joy for your good fortune! And it's so true: "the bigger issue is that a certain Cambridge University Press doesn't price its books so that faculty and grad students can actually afford them." Which leads me to ask: for whom, exactly, do they think they're publishing these books? Is there some other, carefree and wealthy, demographic, perhaps hedge-fund managers or oil-company CEOs, clamoring for books on 17c lit?

Thoroughly Educated said...

Duude, excellent. I wish the $300+ book I'm craving from OUP weren't way past its review-by date.

Susan said...

To be fair, CUP is not the only press that overprices its books. I'm sure we all have our pet peeves in this department. Yet another thing to think about when placing a manuscript!

Flavia said...

Susan: oh, I know. It just so happens that both of these books are from CUP. (And unlike many presses, CUP seems to be putting out more titles in paper, after a year or two, than they used to.)

Anonymous said...

It's libraries who take the beating on these high prices. If they buy a copy they pay through the nose. I'm sure CUP can count on at least 100 or so sales of their major releases, from all the major R1 libraries and they laugh all the way to the bank. Sometime, check out journal subscriptions: "individual" vs. "institutional" the colleges/universities pay incredible prices for these journals to be sent to their libraries. It really is a racket!!

medieval woman said...

Flave, that's totally way cool - I luuuuuuv reviewing books!

Do the Meposian dance of joy! (Does anyone get that 80s sitcom reference?)

RLM said...

medieval woman, I think one needs Cousin Larry Appleton around for any performance of the dance of joy. And, as an academic librarian, I can confirm what Anonymous has to say about insane book and journal prices. It's a constant battle to obtain enough funds just to continue existing subscriptions every year, never mind adding new ones -- and book budgets tend to take the hit in favor of the subscriptions budgets.

Flavia, congrats on your good fortune!

anthony grafton said...

Nice work, Flavia.

On CUP prices: would you believe that the same books are substantially cheaper in the US than in the UK? A CUP editor told me that American buyers simply aren't willing to pay the prices British buyers accept. And where do they get the money?

Peter C. Herman said...

Sad to say, but the high prices CUP charges for its book are at least in part the result of the falling American dollar. This also accounts, again in part, for why gas has become so expensive recently.

JustMe said...

score! go you!

Flavia said...

RG: Damn, you crack me up.