I don’t think people give enough credit to the Internet for completely changing the landscape of publishing. Instead of working through the traditional system of finding an agent, who then pitches and (hopefully) solicits the book to one of the dominant publishers, authors now have the option of finding smaller, more accessible publishing houses or even releasing their books independently. This gives freedoms to authors that were once pretty much unfathomable. In many ways, it’s a great innovation to our culture, with no toll gates between readers and the content they would like to find. The mainstream market is, in some ways, irrelevant to many authors working today, in the sense that a book could be produced cheaply enough to appeal to niche or nonexistent demographics. With that said, great power comes with great responsibility.
I would like to draw attention to, however, is the price of some of these books . This isn’t one specific title, or the works of any singular author, but many. In particular, this applies to poetry releases. These books typically range from 50-90 pages, and cost anywhere between $12 and $20. Now, as someone who has self-published five books, I know that’s unfair to the reader. I’m not blaming the author solely. A lot of times, it’s the publisher who decides the price of a book. I don’t even mind if a book has a wide profit margin, because you’re not just paying for the material its printed on, but also the year(s) the author spent working on it, and all of the other people whose livelihoods might depend on its success. I price my own books arbitrarily or based on how long it took me to complete them. The last book I published, "Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic," took five years of collaboration between myself (as an editor) and its author, so we decided to price the e-book at $5 and the printed copy at $5. With that said, there is a completely free version available on the Internet, no strings attached, so if you’re paying for this book, you’re choosing to pay for the book. My longest novel (and probably my worst), "The Final Gospels," is 342 pages and the minimum list price I’m allowed to assign it is $6.19. Now, compare that to 43 pages listed at $16.
If you ask me, there’s a question of integrity in publishing such a volume. Is it really worth publishing a printed volume of that length? I’m not against it entirely; children’s books aren’t much longer, but there are also illustrations and context to that. Bands release EPs all the time, but something about the literary equivalent seems vain to me. I’m all for short works, but I think most readers would rather just wait an extra six months so the author can bump the collection from 20 poems to 40.
I don’t believe they do it to be evil, or even because they consciously think about students buying the book as a money-grab. Truthfully, I don’t think they think about it at all. Looking at my own book prices for this article, I found that mine were criminally overpriced as well, and adjusted them to accommodate my feelings on this issue. What I do believe, though, is that this is an issue that needs addressed not necessarily for us students or buyers, but also those of us who are putting books out, so that they can understand how much book prices truly matter. I know it’s tough out there for us indie and small-time authors, but we’ve got to think of the readers.