Please Explain or Is There an Economist in the House?

To: inger vandyke <>
Subject: Please Explain or Is There an Economist in the House?
From: Carl Clifford <>
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 2010 14:23:06 +1100

I have done a bit further research on the title and on several bookseller sites, it is listed as a print on demand title, which may explain the price discrepancy, particularly if it is printed in Sri Lanka or India, where printing costs are somewhat cheaper.

Interestingly, Natural History Book Service lists the current edition (1999) in soft cover and print on demand, is listed for GBP 44.95, while the new edition to be released in Jan 2011, is listed as GBP 27.50 , while OUP USA list the new edition as priced at USD 98.50 (approx. GBP 64.00), and OUP lists it as AUD 160 (approx GPP 104.00). It would take some pretty creative book-keeping to pass off discrepancies in price of up to 350% as being due to freight, import taxes etc.

As for field guides produced in the first world being more serviceable, well, I have yet to have a field guide that is truly serviceable as a "field" guide, most are more suited for "armchair" birding.

Also, I tend to buy field guides for the information, not their ornamental quality. If it starts to fall apart in the field, out comes the Librarians gaffer tape.


Carl Clifford

On 28/12/2010, at 1:25 PM, inger vandyke wrote:

Hi All,

OK.  I will attempt to explain some of this.

Dave, the discrepancy on Amazon probably means that there is either a first edition or a copy signed by the author or it might have come from a private well-known collection or another thing that gives it value i.e. out of print for years, illustrated with original paintings, etchings etc. I am ALWAYS in the market for first edition books but even I won't pay huge $$$$ for one unless it is something that I think I will truly get enjoyment out of for years to come.

Carl, the difference between UK, USA, Aus and Sri Lanka has a lot to do with import taxes in each country and where the actual publisher is located.

Sri Lanka, like other countries in the Indian Sub-Continent, will also sell you cheap books often (not always) because they are facsimile copies of the originals. You basically get the same content but lesser quality. I have bought lots of books in Nepal on this basis. They are the equivalent of buying cheap knockoff DVDs/CDs in somewhere like Thailand, except they are books. They are fine if you just want information but if you are looking for good quality pages and a cover in a field guide, that will survive you taking it in to the field for example, then this is probably not your wisest choice.

From a political correctness standpoint, buying books cheaply in places like India by-passes the original publisher and contributes nothing towards the earnings of the writer. It is just another version of the black market whereby writers and contributors 'lose out' by people selling copies of their work. As a writer I don't condone this but it won't stop me from buying the occasional copy because I feel that publishing, as an industry, is currently being revolutionised.

From an industry viewpoint, my thoughts are that if you write, contribute OR publish, it is probably time that you start to rethink your game. Magazines are getting smaller or dropping their publication frequency because of lesser advertising revenue, some publications are simply going down the gurgler, there are more writers, less work and the push towards e-publishing is threatening to financially push many of us to the wall. The black market publishing of books is just another piece in the complex jigsaw puzzle of staying afloat in publishing today.

The challenges for publishers in the future will be to make a reasonable income from words in a digital age and remain competitive in foreign markets where taxes on books will need to be reviewed against the electronic availability of publications.

This is a very complex issue and there is no simple answer. I hope, however, the above has provided some clarity into price differences you see between online sellers for the same publication.



Inger Vandyke

Professional Wildlife Photographer and Writer
Expedition Leader - Heard Island Expedition (3 November - 7 December, 2011) Assistant Publicity Officer - Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association (SOSSA)

Mob:  0402 286 437

Please join the Heard Island Expedition online

> Date: Tue, 28 Dec 2010 13:02:01 +1100
> Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Please Explain or Is There an Economist in the House?
> From: 
> To: 
> CC: 
> It is often weird. I was looking for a book recently which was on sale in > Aus for around $100 - from the publisher in Europe at $75 inc postage and on
> Amazon for - wait for it - $808 new and over $1000 secondhand!
> On 28 December 2010 12:28, Carl Clifford <> wrote:
> > Dear All,
> >
> > I have just been chasing up Harrison's "Field Guide to the Birds of Sri > > Lanka" for someone else and have been mind-boggled at the difference in > > prices. The publisher, Oxford University Press, lists it for AUD 160, > > AbeBooks, from around AUD 75 up and a bookshop in Sri Lanka, around AUD 17.
> >
> > I wonder if any one on the list can explain this price discrepancy, apart > > from the fact that we always seem to be hammered on prices in Australia), I
> > would be mightily obliged.
> >
> > Cheers,
> >
> > Carl Clifford
> > ===============================
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