Why do hobby related books cost so much

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

  1. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Some of the more desirable out-of-print books are very expensive now, because they're considered collectibles in their own right, or because of the perceived value of the information inside. Two books that Wayne Wesolowski published in the early 1980s often sell in the $100 neighborhood. A lot of the Bruce Greenberg books are in the same situation because they're prized by collectors of the old trains they document. Since the original publisher won't risk reprinting them--or in some cases is out of business--and since current copyright law makes it very difficult for anyone else to reprint them either, prices go up.

    As far as the prices of new books, there are a couple of reasons. The short print run is a biggie. Four-color printing is another. Printing in full color is very expensive, because the equipment is more expensive, the process takes more time, it requires costlier paper in order to look decent, and you've got three more chances per page to ruin the page, so QC is more expensive.

    The author doesn't get a whole lot. If an author gets a $4 royalty on a $20 book, that's a really big deal. In many, if not most cases, the authors of the "Dummies" books get 25 cents per copy sold. The people who write books do it for the prestige and love of the subject matter. The percentage of authors who are actually able to make a good living from their writing is low, probably comparable to the percentage of big-league professional athletes versus the percentage of high school athletes.

    When I published a computer book in 1999 and it retailed for $24.95 and I got $1.75 per copy, some established authors were pretty impressed that a first-timer had been able to get that kind of a deal on his own. Even at that rate, I made less money off that book than I would have made moonlighting at a restaurant. But the first time I walked into Borders and saw a book with my name on the spine on the shelf I really didn't care about all that.

    Hobby books can also get away with slightly higher prices because a decent part of their audience is libraries, and the cover price of the book is only a portion of the total cost of acquisition. If you want to read a book but don't want to pay the full cover price, by all means look for it in the library, and if they don't have it, suggest that they get it. Chances are pretty good you're not the only one who wants to read the book.
  2. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Mike,I also overlook the Model Railroader's speical magazine that includes a how to video..Price? $9.95. Check your local hobby shop,book store or Wally World.
  3. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    I'll spend quite a bit for railroad books that I think are worth it--I spent $40 or so on a couple of the out-of-print "Interurbans Special" books, and $70 for the Signature Press book on Central California Traction--at around 350-400 pages, the cost-per-page is about the same as those $20 Kalmbach books. I didn't feel ripped off because those books were packed with information I didn't have and would have had a tough time tracking down. And in each case, I had already seen these books (the IS's in libraries, the CCT book while flipping through it at a store) and determined that there was in fact a treasure trove of information worth that much money to me.

    In defense of the Kalmbach magazine-article compilations, too, sometimes it's very nice to have a compilation of articles on X railroad subject in one place, rather than having to flip through a huge stack of MR's trying to find That One Article. Of course, it's even nicer to find such a collection for a couple of bucks at a model railroad show...
  4. miktrav2

    miktrav2 New Member

    All I'm saying is that the same infor that is available in these books is available elsewhere and at a price substantially below $20. Take this thread found here on the gauge for example:


    This way I get to try designing a small layout with all the elements of a larger one. As far as I can see it provides the same information in those Kalmbach books and in the same format. This way I can decide if I want to invest my time and money in this or get someone else to do it for me or not do it at all.

    Don't get me wrong I don't mind spending money on books. I just spent $30 on a Steam engine book that my son liked at Barnes & Noble, American Steam Locomotives. I didn't mind doing that because it was hardcover and the pictures helped us to identify the engines. It also has almost 2/3 more pages and provided tons of useful information that was in an easier to read format than I've found on the web. This to me was a worthwhile purchase.

  5. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Michael,I am yet to buy a how to book..You see every year MR runs a beginners layout article and gives the same basic instructions found in those $20.00 books.
    Now,I do have books on locomotives(Some are two volumes.) of the PRR,N&W,C&O and Chessie and a guide to Short Line Railroads plus a book on the GP7/9.
    BTW I think that $8.95( not $9.95 as I previously stated-my error :oops: ) special issue of MR is call Model Trains Step By Step.I figure the CD would be worth the $8.95.
  6. theBear

    theBear Member

    brakie I bought that special issue, the DVD is decent, you get to see it done.
  7. miktrav2

    miktrav2 New Member

    Heading out to Barnes and Noble to pick up that issue in a few minutes.



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