My Beautiful Wickedness

Tell me, o friends in the publishing industry…
June 1, 2007, 10:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Why is it so freakin’ hard to say “x number of these textbooks and the supplements that come with them, when packaged with y and z trade books, will cost THIS MUCH”? Will it be $81.95? $63.50? $102.68? Just quote me a damn price, already and don’t make me haggle like I’m in an open air market.

I teach at an urban college and most of my students are working-class first-generation college students. They are heavily financial aid dependent and they work between 20-30 hours a week to afford college. I know from experience that they will not be able to buy all of their books all of the time and so I make a special super-dee-duper effort to keep the course books on reserve and to advocate for book scholarships and to give away any desk copy that comes to hand. I also do my best to keep costs down.

What purpose is served by being unclear about packaging options and pricing schemes? It doesn’t make me want to order more — it makes me not want to order with your company at all. There is no end of companies producing US history survey texts, y’all…


2 Comments so far
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What purpose is served by being unclear about packaging options and pricing schemes?

1. The ability to negotiate more favourable terms for those who buy larger quantities or place more frequent orders.

2. The ability to exercise power in the transaction.

3. The ability to cost-adjust post-production for better recoup.

Granted, I’ve never worked in academic publishing, so there may be a lot more to the distribution story on that side of things. Do you deal directly with the publisher’s rep or with a rep group? Because in my past history, when we shifted to third-partyrep groups to handle the customer interaction, that middle-man layer complicated things even further. Rep groups have to walk the fine line between making money for their client (the actual publisher), making money for themselves and retaining the customer.

The prices a rep group has often vary with the customer, not the product. That’s why they can’t (won’t) quote you a direct price.

Comment by Katherine Coble

Because I know you (and your department) want more to do, I’ll just mention that I used to teach at an urban community college and our department finally decided to write its own textbook for the required core course — a retired faculty member wrote the initial draft and everybody sat around and argued about changes. Self-publishing kept costs down and the students were able to pass used copies along.

Comment by nm

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