The Cranky Old Reader

I'm a Goodreads refugee, looking for a new home. Old books for children, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and humor are my main areas of interest. I've little interest in books that were written after 1975 or so, and prefer books that are older still. There are, however, a few still-living authors that I respect.

eBooks and pBooks

To recap, a paperback (Robert A. Heinlein's Space Cadet) which cost $1.95 in a bookstore in 1981 now costs $9.99 in ebook form, both from Amazon and from Barnes & Noble. This is virtually double the cost, going by the rate of inflation - and that's ignoring the fact that an eBook has far lower costs of production and delivery.


The new paperback edition of Space Cadet now costs $14.99. Does this mean that the $9.99 ebook is actually a savings?


Well, according to the Inflation Calculator, "What cost $1.95 in 1981 would cost $4.85 in 2012."

That's a 768% increase over the 1981 price. Inflation increased costs only 248% in that period. So how can that $14.99 price be justifiable?

Both the ebook and the current paperback are scandalously overpriced. The fact that the ohysical edition is more than three times as expensive as it should be (under the most generous assumptions) doesn't justify the existence of an ebook version which is "only" twice as as outrageously priced.

That is, unless we assume that corporations are essentially beyond reproach, Godlike, above the reasonable expectations of mere customers. But even if one accepts that argument, that approach is ultimately a suicidal one for publishers. The trend has been to lower quality and raise prices. Has that increased their market? I doubt it. Ebooks have provided a temporary respite, but the publishing and bookselling industries have been dwindling over the long term. At these prices, that trend is likely to continue - and increase in speed.

There is no competition here, no free market - just a vast monopoly with multiple fronts for identically-overpriced wares. For vital necessities such as water and food, such monopolies can endure for decades. But for books? Books are vital for some of us, but only a small and dwindling percentage of the world population. The long-term effect of Amazon's book monopoly will simply be to accelerate the ongoing trend of illiteracy. Presumably Amazon plans to be well-diversified before books become a minor, niche product. One can only hope that they won't succeed.

Currently reading

Basic Roleplaying: The Chaosium d100 system (Basic Roleplaying)
Sam Johnson, Charlie Krank
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Rebecca Solnit