Saturday, September 12, 2009

A complaint about complaint--

I was very excited, about a week ago, when I was unpacking a box from Distributed Art Publishers and saw "New York City Musuem of Complaint" edited by Matthew Bakkom. The book is a collection of 132 letters written to various mayors of New York City from 1751-1969. Published by Steidl/Miles it is a gorgeous book and was priced at what seemed to be a great value--$35.

I was even more excited when I found out that Bakkom is originally from Minneapolis and began to page through it. Fabulous, witty, letters regarding all manner of things. One of the best aspects was the hand-written script or, even, at a later time the type-written messages. I was beginning to sense that we might have a real holiday sleeper on our hands. Good value, quirky with high-quality design and presentation.

That is, until yesterday when I found out that the price had been changed to $60. Now, I've been in bookselling for a decade-plus and I've seen trends come and go. Recently, lots of publishers have been changing prices in an effort to slow the bleeding a little. Almost anything priced $14 has gone to $14.95 Lots of hardcover fiction has changed from $23 or $24 to $25. We've even seen lots of changes from something costing 'x' dollars and ninety-five cents going to 'x' and ninety-nine cents. Every penny truly counts. But is well beyond what is rational or sensical.

For whatever reasons, and I'm sure that some people at Steidl or DAP could rattle a few off, they feel the need to almost double the price of a book that quickly goes from affordable to outlandish for a lot of book-buyers. I certainly would put myself in that boat at least.

The craziest part of this is that after selling our first copy we immediately ordered four more. We did this the day before the official price change, apparently. So we got billed at the original price and will be selling our remaining copies at the very fair price of $35. Sadly, when they are gone and we get more the price will have changed by twenty-five bucks. What this does to the overall sales of the book is yet to be determined. But I know one thing: we will sell far, far, less of it and I'm guessing many other indies will do the same. In fact, lots of smaller stores won't even carry it due to expected sticker shock.

We're down to two copies as we've sold two of our re-order since I started thinking about this last night. The book world is in a state of massive flux right now and there is nothing that can better illustrate that fact more than this bizarre saga.

The jacket is pretty plain and basic--I assure the inside is far more attractive.

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