Why do hobby related books cost so much

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by miktrav2, Dec 1, 2004.

  1. miktrav2

    miktrav2 New Member


    I went to the local hobby store today to pick up some books on setting up a new layout. I was surprised to find that the books were only about 95 pages each and a good quantity of the pages were dominated by large pictures. I find it hard to believe that these books could have that much useful information in them with only 95 pages. What makes a 95 page book worth $20? Is it really worth it? Couldn't I just get the information I'm looking for from the net or other hobbyist?

  2. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    There was a time when books like these were only $2.98 but then you could get a brand new car for under $5000 Now you are lucky to find a car under $20000 so you can see why MR books go up in price. It is also a niche market so MR books don't sell like others and the cost to produce them is higher and the rewards less. We don't like it but have to live with it.
  3. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Because hobby-related books are not produced for the mass market, and therefore fewer copies are produced. Books that are produced in shorter runs are more expensive (setup costs are comparatively higher.) So yeah, model railroad books can be a bit pricey.

    Generally, a good way to save money on model railroad books is to get them used. Try eBay, used bookstores (look in the railroad or hobbies sections), or train shows. Some hobby shops sell used books as well.

    While one is often limited in selection, generally the information doesn't change too much over time (unless you're looking for a book on DCC or the latest engines) so a book 30 years old is most likely still just fine to tell you how to set up a layout today.

    Or check your public library--most halfway-decent libraries have some model railroading books tucked away somewhere for checkout, and many also carry Model Railroader and RMC in their periodicals section.

    If you're looking for assorted snippets of specific information, forums online can be a good source. If you're looking for short, general articles, the Web can be okay--and in some cases detailed information can be found, but it might take some online digging, and saving/printing/downloading so you can refer to it later. But if you're looking for something with more of a comprehensive overview, books are generally the way to go.

    But since model railroading books have been around for the past 50 years, and the basic principles haven't changed THAT much, there are quite a few places to look for books that will cost you less than the brand-new on-the-shelf price. You might still have to pick up a $20 book or two if you're seeking specific information and just can't find the book from another source (and books have a nasty habit of turning up in clearance-sale piles for 50 cents just after you bought the $20 version) but generally you can save lots of bucks by buying used, or checking out the local library.
  4. miktrav2

    miktrav2 New Member

    It's not that I mind spending the $20 on a book it's that the book is only 95 pages long. With all the pictures included the actual number of written pages would probably drop by 1/4 or more. I think these books need more content. After seeing them and flipping through the pages I'd rather talk to an experienced hobbyist or get my information from the net.
  5. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    Yeah - I agree with all that - The Book I'm helping to edit right now - Will sell about 5,000 copies - a "Minimum Press" run.... it might sell for as high as $49.00..

    Why??? Because..... The Writer, the Publisher, the Press, and the final retailer all have to make money... Plus Shipping from the Press to the Writer or to the final destination.... So even UPS has to make money on these things :( :(

    The press runs are usually about $25.00 per book... that leaves $24.00 to be split between everyone else :( :( Not that much for everyone :( They sell to the retailers at a discount 80%??? So the retailers actually pay about $39.00 That's not that much after you take the $25.00 out for the press.... $14.00 to pay for Shipping, The Writer, and the publisher :( Everyone has overhead :( :( :(

    This is why you see writers working on 3 or 4 books at a time - and why "Million Sellers" are the Holy Grail of everyone involved :)

    BTW - you notice "Editor" is not a paid position??? I get a few free copies of the book - for helping him :) :) Not too bad!! :)
  6. 3phase

    3phase Member

    dont forget to pdf the book....
  7. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    He's doing the entire thing in a pdf format - he sends me anywhere from 20 - 30 pages at a time :)
  8. rcline

    rcline Member

    Micheal, Don't waste your money on books!!!!!! I have learned that you will learn more here in "The Gauge" than you learn anywhere else! Just ask and someone will help you out and they, more than likely give you links to go to as well as many posts here in the gauge to do what ever you need. Not to mention that many, (almost all of them) have more knowlage than you will ever find in any book. I KNOW! I'm just a greenhorn at this and been taught more than any book could teach me. I would have to buy a hundred books to learn what I have learned here in "The Gauge".
  9. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    It is, however, kind of nice to have a railroad library. I think that aside from maybe three or four books and a few magazines I bought new, the rest are all used of one stripe or another--plus a binder of copied articles from library books.
  10. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Good idea to look for used books, or go to the library, but... someone has to buy these books. If only a few people bought these books at the hobby shop or by mail, then the price wold not be $20, but more like $200, or there would be no books at all since the purpose of printing to books is not only to inform, but to make a few bucks doing it. One other thing, most of these books have full-color pictures, which are not cheap to set up and print, like maybe ten times the cost of black and white.

    Best bet, if you find a $20 book you want, look to some of the discount dealers, and you'll probably get it brand new for around $15 or $16. I personally buy these books so I can reference them whenever I want, and I gain as much from the pictures as I do from what is said. I grimmace when I see the price, but I understand why.
  11. theBear

    theBear Member

    Start by visiting Amazon they have links to tons of used book sellers.

    Between Amazon and a salvage and stock overage outlet I've managed to acquire a sizable technical library for the world of programming.

    Several of my books cost me 25 cents but retailed for $50.00 or more.

    Remember you should have got it at Mardens when you saw it [​IMG].
  12. Oldmax

    Oldmax Member

    Idea About Books

    :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused: Sometimes you can pick up Books of the type most people Don't read. At A flea Market or Second Hand Store . My Wife has picked up some "First Ed."
    at some of the ones around here. You might try one of these. Also try the Local
    library some times the books they have will suprize you our local library even
    has books on how to wire layouts. Good Luck on Layout Happy Railroading!!:D :D :D :D :D

    p.s. you might try http://www.trackplanning.com/
  13. CharlesH.

    CharlesH. Member

    Hehe, you think $49 is expensive? I once saw Model Railroading With John Allen for as much as $170!!
  14. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    Yep - but there you are definatly paying for his knowledge & expertice. :wave: :wave: :wave:
  15. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Michael,Save your money..Go to a train show and buy back issues of Model Railroaders with Project layouts for beginers..Those articles tells you the same thing as those $20.00 books..
    How important is modeling books? I really can't tell you..You see I been in the hobby 53 years and learn a lot through the pages of MR,from my Dad and hands on modeling.
  16. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    You are right, back copies of MR or MRR have a lot of basic information, just finding it is the trick. A lot of these $20 books are simply a compilation of prvious articles in Kalmback magazines. I suspect that in a few years, they'll come out with a book on how to build the Turtle Creek Railroad, and they will sell a bunch of them.

    There is something to be said about having all that information in one place and not having to try to find the six or eight old magazines that had the original articles. :D :D
  17. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    I completely agree that the value offered by most of the "books" (really glorified magazines) is nowhere near the price. I find the magazines much more helpful (and much more cost-effective).

    I spent a LOT of years in the publishing industry... My guess is that those books cost the publishing company about $8 each all told, ($1 or so for the writer, $0.50 for the photographer, graphic artists, production time, etc., $0.50 for the editorial work, rewrites, etc., $1.50 for overhead, lights, power, rent, payroll, HR, etc., and $4 for actual printing).

    This they sell to the LHS for $16, and the LHS sells you for $20. That's the standard ratio in publishing by the way: 100% markup publisher to retailer, 25% markup retailer to you.

    Which may be the "standard" markup ratio, but still doesn't make me think the books justify it. Not when you could have the same 95 color pages with lots of pictures, add another 95 black and white pages of text and diagrams, and raise the cost only negligibly. So far as I can tell MOST of the problem is that these "books" are often simply stringing together a series of articles that appeared in one magazine or another, and they ARE disproportionately high in pretty pictures and low in information because that's what they have -- they're just repurposing content they already paid for.

    I'd sooner pay $25 for a 200 page book which had no more pictures than the 95 page book, but much more info, than tke the $20 option I have now.
  18. miktrav2

    miktrav2 New Member

    KCHRONISTER - That's exactly what I was trying to get across.

  19. theBear

    theBear Member

    Yup and there is still a negative return on a car, almost but not quite the money sink that a boat is [​IMG].
  20. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Taking the car analogy a step further, if one want's the latest and greatest and loves that new car smell, they can plop down a hefty sum, say $35,000 to get it. Once around the block and it's now worth $30,000. A few years later, someone who doesn't mind a few dings and scratches and with a few miles on it and the newness worn off will gladly pay $15,000 for that same car. The same thing with books. Buy it brand new, looking good and smelling fresh with shiny pages, one usually pays the $20 it costs. If you don't mind waiting, you can get the same book a year or so later, possibly with a few dings and scratches and with the newness worn off and a few miles on it for half that.

    There are a few companies in this world that only build a small number of cars each year, and their cost is out of reach for most of the population. The same goes for books, and just about any other commodity. The more you make and sell, the lower the per-unit cost is, any everyone in the distribution chain is entitled to make a profit.

    Again, if everyone waited, and just bought used cars, there would be no market for new cars, then eventually there would be no used cars to sell either. Same goes for books. Someone has to be first and buy them new. :) :)

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