Why is a new university press hardcover $69.50?

This morning’s edition of Inside Higher Ed includes a blog contribution by Joshua Kim that questions the price of a recent hardcover book published by Temple University Press.

Randy Martin’s new book, Under New Management: Universities, Administrative Labor, and the Professional Turn looks like an important contribution to the debate about the changing nature of higher ed. . . . I went to Amazon and saw that the book is priced at $69.50. No e-book version is yet available, but the Temple University Press also lists the book at $69.50.

Which makes me wonder, who is going to buy this book? Yes, I think university libraries should all have a copy. But what individuals interested in this conversation are going to shell out 70 bucks?

In the comments section, Penn State Press’s Assistant Director Tony Sanfilippo offers an explanation of university press pricing:

I don’t speak for Temple, but from the perspective of another university press in Pennsylvania I can tell you that for us, the price is directly related to how many copies we can sell. These days, we’re lucky to sell a few hundred copies of a book like this. Its cost to the press is in the tens of thousands of dollars. Divide that by a couple of hundred and you have that kind of pricing. . . . How many young scholars are building personal libraries? We’re in a vicious cycle where the erosion of the perceived value of a personal library means a smaller printrun sellthrough, which is noted and reflected in the price of the next book that a publisher publishes. We have tried cutting prices in half, but it has never doubled sales.

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