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Penguin’s eSpecial Is a New Kind of WTF-ery

Penguin has announced that it will be releasing an e version of the new epilogue that is to be included in the paperback version of The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan (does it address the federal bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae?).  For all those hardcover purchasers, you can download this new epilogue for the low, low price of $5.000.  

The epilogue updates Dr. Greenspan’s view of economic changes in the U.S. economy, including the current credit crisis, since the original publication of the book in September 2007. 

 

As with all Penguin eBooks the Penguin “eSpecial” will be available in many formats including Sony Reader, Amazon Kindle, Adobe Acrobat, and others.

First, Penguin isn't the first to release epilogues in eform.  HarperCollins did it with Julia Quinn's Second Epilogues.  Second, the price of the epilogue is outrageous.  The list price of the paperback version is $17.00.  The cost of the epilogue would be nearly a third of that.  

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

6 Comments

  1. RfP
    Sep 08, 2008 @ 15:04:56

    The price is only outrageous if books are completely fungible and word count sets value. They’re not, and it doesn’t. As a proportion of the original book’s page count this epilogue isn’t worth much, but as a *specific* piece of information by a *specific* author it is. In fact it’s a pretty reasonable price if you think of it as buying a new work that neatly covers exactly the time period the last book didn’t, when the author’s unlikely to write a further book duplicating that work.

    If I liked Greenspan’s book, I’d want to know what he thinks about the situation today. I might be happy to pay $5 to answer that question, because consider the alternatives. I’d have to wait several years for his next book, or invest a lot of time (and $17 more, instead of $5) in reading a more current book by a different author (after which I still wouldn’t know what *Greenspan* thinks). That’s a situation where I might happily pay extra *because* it’s a shorter work–completely counter to the rationale you get by valuing books by their length.

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  2. veinglory
    Sep 08, 2008 @ 16:23:16

    5.000? I first read that as $5000, which would be a bit steep ;)

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  3. Miki
    Sep 08, 2008 @ 23:14:21

    Seems to me Penguin is losing an opportunity to convince people to try ebooks. If you paid $17 for a hardback, you might have been willing to download the Epilogue for free, even if you’ve never tried ebooks before.

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  4. Robin
    Sep 09, 2008 @ 00:27:24

    Disgusted but not surprised.

    IMO they’re charging 5 bucks too much for the epilogue. What better way to encourage reader loyalty than by giving away the epilogue, or charging a nominal fee, something like the .99 that Amazon charged for its shorts.

    It frustrates me how few public intellectuals we have at this point in history, and how commodified knowledge has become. And people wonder at the level of civic disengagement in the US. A real puzzler that is.

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  5. kirsten saell
    Sep 10, 2008 @ 15:57:26

    I would have to know more before I decided whether this is true WTF-ery. Because if we’re 1) looking at a book that was say, published last year, and therefore maybe written and last updated 4 months and more before that, and 2) looking at an epilogue that has very current economic info in it, I could totally see someone being willing to pay $5 for it.

    In fact, this is something that might be worth looking into for a publisher–a basic book on economics (or health, or whatever), with periodic “epilogues/supplements” to be put out whenever circumstances/current wisdom significantly changes.

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  6. RfP
    Sep 10, 2008 @ 23:42:27

    It frustrates me how few public intellectuals we have at this point in history, and how commodified knowledge has become.

    I don’t at all disagree. However, I’m cautious about that train of thought because I don’t believe there’s a special onus on extra-smart people to give away their ideas for free.

    In any case, I don’t see the $5 as the barrier to knowledge and engagement. I see reading as the barrier. I think the societal problem is how few people would read the epilogue even if it *were* free. As it is, most people deciding whether to pay the $5 will be those who’ve already read the book–which puts them in rarefied air to start with.

    this is something that might be worth looking into for a publisher-a basic book… with periodic “epilogues/supplements” to be put out whenever circumstances/current wisdom significantly changes.

    That’s true–there’s already an electronic model in software updates and interim reports.

    ReplyReply

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