Dear people who commented on my open letter to academic presses,
Thank you for your input. I’ve been giving your comments a lot of thought. I have a couple of general points to make and then I’ll stop talking about this.
1. Although I didn’t really express it this way, my central point is not really about what academic presses have an economic interest in doing. My main point concerns what I have an economic interest in them doing. Like the people who work in publishing, I like books. I’d like to be able to afford more of them. It would be a lot better for me if they would lower their prices.
2. It doesn’t seem to me that academic presses have an economic interest doing anything related to being academic presses. If anybody makes any money in that business, it’s a total fluke, because you can’t make any money publishing books nobody reads. They have an economic incentive to become oil prospectors or something.
3. However, it seems to me that the presses have an interest (economic or otherwise) in me buying their books rather than just getting it from the library and photocopying the parts I want to read or buying a used copy, which is what I mostly do.
4. It also seems to me that no author who publishes with an academic press is in it for the money (if you were in it for the money, you’d write a lurid, simple-minded mystery with the words ‘knights templar’ or ‘code’ in the title). You publish an academic book because you’re a scholar who wants to disseminate your scholarship, and it’s easier to do that under the imprimatur of an academic press. But it gets harder to do if the academic press turns around and charges $100 for the book. If I ever publish a book, I hope it’s priced at an affordable level. (I know a couple of people whose books are so expensive that they’ll just email you a pdf of the whole thing, since that’s the only way anyone will ever read them.)
5. I’m not an economist (though it’s not clear to me that being an economist counts for anything), but I have some Kindle-related economic views. Since the Kindle is a new, emerging technology that hasn’t really caught on yet, there’s a huge incentive for everything associated with it to be cheap (for exactly the same reason your first stay at your time-share, or for that matter your first hit of heroin, has to be cheap). So even if Amazon will eventually start gouging publishers huge licensing fees, it does not now make any sense to do anything that will artificially raise book prices. It makes sense to keep them artificially low. The name of the game right now is, get people to use Kindles however you can.
Yours most sincerely,