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May 15, 2006


Matt St. Amand

Ever wonder why you're paying (or asked to pay) $30 - $39 for a hardcover book? Because of the insatiable greed of distributors and the jelly-filled backbones of publishers.

Distributors demand and get between 55 - 65% discounts from the cover price of books, pocketing the profit when they pass the books along to bookstores at a much slimmer discount. So, book publishers' only idea to combat this corporate vampirism is to charge outrageous prices for their books.

In order to do business with distributors and bookstores, publishers must take back all unsold copies, in whatever condition they're in (Barnes & Noble is often helpful enough to actually slash off the front covers of books with boxcutter blades, rendering the copies unsalable) and at any time. So, if a title sits on a shelf for six months, doesn't sell, it could conceivably have its cover chopped off and the remainder sent back to publisher, with the bookstore receiving a full refund on the money it spent on the title.

Is this the best the industry can do? Because it's damned woeful.

Which leaves us with unconscionably priced books, an industry that's absolutely allergic to new talent, and a business model that seems to have been dreamed up by Vlad the Impaler.

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