RE: [OPE] Workers of the World, by Marcel van der Linden

Date: Wed May 28 2008 - 08:41:12 EDT

> I am not sure you are correct about the disappearance of physical books vis-a-vis digital texts. From long experience in information services, I 
> know that people often prefer handling physical books because it is more practical and easier to get information that way, than scrolling through 
> hundreds of pages of text.

Hi Jurriaan:
I think there's a 'generational divide' here   But, more importantly, 
I think the writing is already on the wall regarding this question. 
You can see this clearly by visiting the web sites of book and scholarly
journal publishers - which are increasingly offering digital copies 
as a heavily-discounted option.  As with all new technologies, 
there is a diffusion period during which the older technology is still
being used by some firms in the market. This transition will not
take place overnight, in other words, but it is on-going and, I think,
You would think that book publishers attempt to estimate the
*price elasticity of demand* before determining the asking prices
for their products, but this is an oligopolistic market where the 
firms have a *quasi-monopoly* (i.e. they are the only sellers
of a particular book by a particular author) which allows them 
to determine price in other, more arbitrary, ways: e.g. using the
'cost plus' principle. 
But, obviously, pricing is out-of-whack with demand, especially
re scholarly texts. Quite simply, the volumes are now generally too 
expensive for individuals to afford. *That's true in many cases for
paperback editions as well!*  It is this discrepancy between demand
and the costs of producing traditional volumes which is driving the 
industry towards digital texts.  
In solidarity, Jerry
PS: Required college texts are somewhat of a special case, but even here - 
where students don't have any alternative other than to purchase an 
assigned text and can't buy a substitute good -  digital copies are
increasingly being offered. There is also an 'in-between'
product where the book is sold in loose-leaf form without a 
binding. This cuts down on publishing costs, and is preferred
by many students since with this format they don't have to 
carry the entire text to class, but even here prices are very
high and students justifiably complain.  Btw, one can have a 
very good discussion in an economics class if you raise this 
- "Why are college textbooks so expensive?' - for discussion.

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