Friday, February 07, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Magically Expensive

It's enough to make Gutenberg cry, if he was still around.

CNN has a story today about the upcoming Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", being the most expensive mass-market children's book ever - it'll retail for a whopping $29.95 (USD):
A spokeswoman for Scholastic, Judy Corman, acknowledged that some customers may object to the price, but cited increased production costs and the new book's anticipated length, well over 700 pages. "Clearly, the cost has gone up for printing, paper, etc.,"' she said. "We're hoping people can afford it, but this is a very big book, a third larger than the last Potter book, and we have to be realistic." Few will actually pay $29.99 because stores offer significant discounts. Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, which had been selling the book for $17.97, will now charge $17.99.
That's a pretty pricey tome, if you ask me. Certainly the publishers need to recoup their costs, but I can't help thinking they're bumping the price because they can - "Order of the Phoenix" has been topping the bestseller charts long before its projected June 21st release date, and pre-orders are a captive audience. The order's in, and they could probably charge $50.00 and people would buy it - the sky's the limit.

Just last night I was looking at the covers of Newsweek and TIME, emblazoned with photos of the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrating in flames like some temporary Pleiades...then I noticed the cover price. $3.95. Since when did they get so expensive? Seems like we are moving backwards from the era of mass-market printing for the masses; because we obtain so much of our content from electronic and non-paper sources, there's less overall demand for hard copy so each copy has to become more expensive for a printing run to be profitable. I don't think we're getting more illiterate, but our written communications are becoming more temporal and evanescent instead of permanent (as permanent as paper could be!). On the upside, fewer books mean fewer trees chopped down - but I'd rather kill a tree for a book than for most of the goshawful junk mail that comes through our mailboxes, and those smelly perfumed inserts in your Sunday paper.

As for the new Harry, I think I'll wait for the paperback. Used. At the local thrift shop.

Now it's time for me to do something embarassing and trite: post my results from one of those "blog tests". This one looked interesting.