If you don't sell it, I can't buy it

I don't understand the world of academic publishing. Incredibly niche books, some barely longer than a novella, are sold for ridiculously high prices. Or, worse than that, they're not sold at all. Let me explain.

A friend of mine recommended an obscure book, published a couple of years ago. The blurb made it look right up my alley, so I tried to buy it. I only read eBooks, but I couldn't find it anywhere for sale in the UK. Amazon had a listing for a paper copy, but it was permanently out of stock.

In desperation, I went straight to the publisher. They would ship a dead-tree book across the Atlantic to me. With shipping costing even more than the book.

I found someone on Twitter who was posting highlighted screenshots of the book, so I Tweeted him and the publisher to find out where to get a copy. He graciously offered to send me a PDF.

At which point, the publisher waded in - furious at the situation.

How dare you give this away for free? We're a small publisher and we have to sell books to stay in business!

Fair enough. So I asked them where I could buy an eBook version. Their response was disappointing.

It's only available on Proquest and Ebsco. Sorry!

Both of those are academic databases, available on subscription only, with no public pricing available.

So, let's be clear. You don't want people giving it away, but you won't actually sell me a copy?

What do you want me to do? Not read your book?

I took the emailed PDF. I'm not particularly proud of that. The book is good, and I'm enjoying learning from it. I just wish I could have paid for it.

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One thought on “If you don't sell it, I can't buy it”

  1. Duggie says:

    Sounds like the publisher is being difficult - perhaps not intentionally but they're unwilling to consider your left-field request as anything they can support - grrr! Rather than feeling bad, might you reach out to the author to offer them a token/beer jar tip/PayPal donation/Amazon wish list purchase?


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