Tuesday, August 16, 2011

inflation affects publishers too

Here is one paragraph from this article about a Washington DC independent bookseller:

“I love this work, but can find it exasperating at times. In the store, people leave books wherever they feel like, so I will find Ulysees God knows where. And then, there are the people who argue about prices and don’t understand inflation. I charge less than half price for a book, but if it cost $10 in 1980, it costs more now. I can’t take you in a time machine back to when it was $10. Sometimes I feel like I have to teach these people basic economics."

We know the feeling.  We did a previous post about the Reserve Bank's handy inflation calculator.  While we have generally kept the real prices of smaller books close to what they were 20 years ago, the bigger ones are cheaper in real terms than equivalents were then; yet some people still think they cost too much!  Because of our small market--only one fifteenth the size of the UK--print runs are much smaller than they are there and unit costs per book are accordingly much higher.  We can't offer the same value per page that UK and US publishers can.  Despite that, though, we still think we do very well: for example New Zealand 1950s Steam in Colour contains nearly 400 good size historic colour photos on gloss art paper with a hard cover, and yet despite Bill English's hefty GST, sells for only $NZ 70 in shops.  Back in 1990 that would have been $42.  In 1980 it would have been $15.

There are plenty of things that have increased a lot faster than inflation: houses are the obvious example which people accept--so has food (we can't believe how much some things have increased in the last year).  We bet that a lot of the grumblers' pay packets have increased a lot more than inflation over the last 20-30 years too.

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