Monday, December 15, 2008

Question from Tracey - John Guy's book on Elizabeth I

"The Reign of Elizabeth I" by John Guy... him of Margaret More Roper and Mary, Queen of Scots fame.
Just saw this book advertised on Amazon for $110!! Is it worth it for me to cut-out the peanut butter and just eat jelly??


Bearded Lady said...

Ya, all these "academic" books get pricey. I got that one out of my library. Most colleges have it and you can get it through the interloan system. I would try there first. It's free and you can use the money saved to eat something a bit more nourishing then pb and j:)

kb said...

I just looked at the table of contents for this book and it is an edited volume of essays. Several of the essays may be available elsewhere. For example, I think the Mears essay may be available through JSTOR. I wouldn't spend the money. Do what Bearded Lady suggests and get it through inter-library loan and then take copies for personal use of the specific essays that interest you.

Foose said...

There's a limited preview available on Google Books, including the Table of Contents. You might want to take a look before you purchase; it looks like a book of essays by various authors that might be more specialist-academic than an enjoyable narrative-driven history of Elizabeth's reign. (In other words, don't expect an Elizabeth version of Guy's My Heart is My Own on Mary Queen of Scots.) Chapters like "Ecclesiastical vitriol: religious satire in the 1590s and the invention of puritanism" and "The complaint of poetry for the death of liberality" lead me to suspect the overall tone is rather dry.

Anonymous said...

Why have books gotten so outrageously expensive? I bought S. J. Gunn's book on Charles Brandon about 3 years ago for around $50 which is reasonable. I just checked today on amazon and there are two used copies available, one for $200 and one for $999! It's not even that good a book. I can't understand those prices at all.

Foose said...

Kathy, just as a matter of personal interest, has your copy already turned brilliant yellow and brittle, the usual defect of hardcover books imported from the U.K.? Because mine did and so did all my other Tudor books published in England.

That's partly what galls me. As for the prices, yes, I've noticed escalation, but chiefly the further you get from publication date. You can set up a wait list on and lurk, like a spider, for notification of a desired book within a reasonable price range. Sometimes it takes years, though.

Anonymous said...

Foose, no mine is in very good condition except the cover is a bit ragged around the edges.

The thing about this book is that is exerpted from his dissertation which I'm sure you can buy fairly cheaply on microform of some time. I just don't understand that $999 price at all. It's ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

On prices for books, old and new:

The prices of older books (SJ Gunn's bio of Brandon, for example) are driven by the market ... how many copies are available versus how many people want to buy a copy, and what they will pay. I have actually paid pretty high prices for certain books published in the past half-century that are now out of print. But I learned a lesson and stopped buying from Alibris and similar sites. I instead buy on eBay. You'd be surprised how many good and valuable books turn up there, often the result of local public libraries or smaller universities making room for newer books. It takes time and patience, but the lower cost is worth it.

As for the price of new publications, it is a serious issue within the academic community and the topic of often heated debate. The rise in end-cost (sticker prices) over the past 20 years has been driven by several factors. First, paper is simply more expensive, especially now that many libraries are essentially forcing publishers to use costly acid-free paper (acidic paper darkens and crumbles after a decade or so, as Foose noted). Second, production costs beyond paper are getting steadily higher, as is shipping of the books to retailers, and retailers' overhead. In other words, costs are rising all along the route from author to buyer.

And academic publishers have been cutting back a great deal in recent years, as I have learned personally. Unless a book is a sure-fire seller, they are reluctant to take it on. Even then, initial print runs for academic books are often ridiculously small, often as few as 1000 copies. When you gear up a production line to produce fewer widgets, each widget produced costs more; the more widgets produced in a run, the lower the per-widget cost. But since it also costs a small fortune to store un-sold books until someone buys them, publishers are just not willing to risk large print runs.

And why should they? University libraries and professors, the two principle purchasers of academic books, both have large financial resources for buying books, almost regardless of the cost. University libraries often have 6- and 7-figure annual acquisition budgets as well as bulk-buying agreements with individual publishers. University X buys every history book published by Publisher Y in 2008 for 1/2 of retail price, for example. Individual public buyers are left to make up the difference and have to pay full retail.

As for professors, most tenured history professors have as part of their contract a book-buying allowance from the university. They often do not pay out of their own pocket, so what do they care?

And lest anyone object that author's themselves are driving up the costs ... academic authors make essentially nothing off a book unless it sells exceedingly well. And by "exceedingly well," I mean a few thousand copies. That may sound like very few, but the average academic history book seldom breaks the 1000 mark. There are exceptions (David Starkey, for example), but they usually involve academics who write specifically for the general public with the pre-determined intention of selling well. The book that got this thread started ... John Guy's edited collection of essays on Elizabeth I, may possibly sell 2000 copies, a "best-seller" in academic terms but a "no-seller" terms of the general public market. And 2000 copies sold will not make any author more than a few hundred dollars.

I do as Bearded Lady suggests. I either borrow from the nearest university or ask my local public library to get it via InterLibrary Loan. Sometimes, I buy a book on eBay. Only very rarely do I buy a book new, and then only on Amazon, never in a local bookshop.

Anonymous said...

I have an on-going list of authors and titles which have caught my eye throughout the years. My list consistantly stays long, but the actual turnover is quite fast.

There is a lovely humongusly large used book store in my state and it's amazing how many of my 'wants' eventually end up there...and at extremely reasonable prices. I am just about past the point where something is purchased sight-unseen, having been too often disappointed in the past. There are exceptions for favorite authors, although they can also disappoint.

Thank you to everyone for the ideas. I do frequent my local library for 'hys'terical novels, but academic work is few and far between, even down to a popular biography such as "Six Wives" by Starkey. I understand that the library has to purchase for the general reading public and isn't my own personal book-buying institute...darn :( Have yet to try the interloan system.

Interesting how academic publishing works. It definitely is the 'luck of the draw' as to who is published, as sadly you have found, PhD.

As for this specific book...reading the table of contents is an excellent idea. From the sounds of it, this book is not quite my 'sit in a rocking chair with a mug of coffee for a snowy afternoon' tome.

Bearded Lady said...

Tracey, you are so lucky. My local used book store only carries bodice rippers and graphic novels.

Phd Historian – I never knew how academic publishing worked. Say...would you have the time to do a guest blog over at the general Tudor history section? (after the holiday when Lara has the time :)I have so many questions that I want to ask about your research, but I don’t think this is the place to ask them. And I am guessing others want to know too.

Oh and good tip on the ebay. I never thought about that one. I have checked out from my library R.J. Knecht's - Renaissance Warrior and Patron seriously about 8 times. ($50.00 on amazon!) The sick part is that I don’t always check it out to reread it. I just like having it on my bookshelf.

kb said...

Bearded Lady -

You're definitely one of us. :)

Anonymous said...

My "blogging" skills at present are limited to clicking on the "Add a Comment" line, so I'm not sure what a "guest blog" would entail. But I'd be happy to learn!

I going to be starting an open thread discussion of Leanda de Lisle's The Sisters Who Would Be Queen that will take up a bit of time over the next few days, so maybe the other can wait until after Christmas?

And I see that there are 4 copies of Renaissance Warrior available on eBay, starting as low as $39, much cheaper than Amazon.

Lara said...

You could do a Q&A over on the main blog like I did with Sandra Worth. Sort of like an interview, but with everyone who reads the blog getting to ask questions! But let's tackle "The Sisters Who Would Be Queen" first.