Scott Esposito at Conversational Reading took up the recent AP-Ispos findings, comparing the finding that the average American reads 4 books a year to other countries (the U.S. comes out well in this, but there are reasons) and pointing to economics as one of the issues adding to this statistic.
If people who read 50 or more books per year are willing to cut consumption in response to prices, think what people who only read four books per year would do. Taking up this point, in an article at the Huffington Post, Alex Remington makes much of the rise of trade paperback prices, speculating of a growing gap in books for “the masses” and books for “intellectuals.” He says that trade paperbacks can increase in price because they’re targeted at better educated, more cultured readers who tend to buy books despite price increases, but that this practice leaves many readers behind.
He explains this in greater detail, and he’s partially right that prices for books are crazy. (Although people still could go to libraries, so cost can be overcome.)
As someone personally involved, I should point out that there are a lot of costs eating into the publisher’s revenue stream. In brief, a bookstore gets an average discount of about 45% off the retail price of a book. Of the remaining amount, 20%+ goes to the publisher’s distributors—more if you figure in charges for returns. Authors get 7.5%, or more, of the retail price on all sales, and most translators get 1.0%. That leaves approx. 35% of the retail price to cover salaries, production, marketing expenses, operating costs, etc. So, if a trade paperback lists for $15, the publisher gets about $5.25 per unit sold. And if a book sells about 3,000 copies (which is solid for a work of literature), that comes out to $15,750. And printing costs alone run about $6,000.
This is why I love non-profits that can raise the necessary funds, and work on the appropriate scale, to publish great works of literature at a reasonable price despite sales expectations.
But hopefully as technology advances, a new model will arise that will allow publishers to reach even more readers at a lower cost. Because it is important that all readers—income aside—have access to literature. Regardless of how great their local library system is.
And as a sidenote, apparently Bulgaria Youth Hate Books. At least this isn’t just a local problem . . .
A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee. . .
The dislocation of individuals from the countries of their birth has long been a common theme in contemporary literature. These two short novels recently translated into English appear firmly rooted in this tradition of ex-pat literature, but their authors eschew. . .
In Melancholy, Hungarian author, critic, and art theorist László Földényi presents a panorama of more than two thousand years of Western historical and cultural perspectives on the human condition known as melancholia. In nine chapters, Földényi contrasts the hero worship. . .
Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by. . .
In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .
Eliot Weinberger takes big strides across literary history in his genuinely breathtaking short work, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracking translations of a short ancient Chinese poem from the publication of Ezra Pound’s Cathay in 1915 to Gary. . .
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .