Academic Publishing: The Cost of Philosophy?

angry reader

Maybe I’m just one of the disgruntled minority out here in the minor lands of readership, but of late the price of books has suddenly begun to rise exorbitantly. Angry? Sure I am, being retired has its benefits and its drawbacks, one is the inevitable budget one allows for one’s endless dialogue with certain thinkers. Of late books on current philosophy have become more and more a burden to my budget. Take the latest offering on Agon Hamza on philosophy, Slavoj Zizek and Dialectical Materialism (2015). The cost is prohibitive to my current budget. Most of such books are meant for libraries, and I’ll probably wait till its available from my local institution which can usually get such works on loan from intrastate checkouts, etc.. But that’s not the point. Hamza’s last book of essays by leading scholars Repeating Žižek (2015) was reasonable and within reach of the average reader cost wise. I sometimes wonder why radical thinkers are forced into the straight jacket of capitalist commercialism? Why did Hamza choose a publisher who would charge such an outrageous fee that only the rich or institutionalized systems (i.e., libraries, academia, etc.) could afford? And, don’t even get me on e-books. Since Amazon and others caved into publisher demands the price of e-books has gone up at the same rate as hard backs.

On Huffington Post College Textbook Prices Increasing Faster Than Tuition And Inflation we discover that College textbook prices have increased faster than tuition, health care costs and housing prices, all of which have risen faster than inflation. From The Daily Beast we learn that E-Books And Cost Pressures Push College Students Away From Textbooks. Textbook sales, for both higher education and K-12, will reach an estimated $13.7 billion in the U.S. this year, according to Outsell, a research firm. The overall market is expected to increase over the next few years as the student population is growing, according to Kate Worlock, an analyst at Outsell. On C/Net we learn that it is the introduction of such tablets as iPad that began the trend of upward cost on e-books (here): Before the introduction of the iPad, publishers sold e-books according to the “wholesale” model. Publishers set a list price for a book, they took roughly half, e-book vendors like Amazon took roughly half, and the vendor could set whatever price they want. The result: The e-book marketplace competition that publishers wanted began to take place. Rather than competing on price, e-book sellers like Apple, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and others have, up until now, mainly been competing on user experience.

So again capitalism wins, the reader loses.

I know, I know… I’m just a disgruntled reader and wish I could afford this latest work. Why? It is one of the first works to deal directly with Zizek’s latest magnum opus’s Less Than Nothing and Absolute Recoil. It also had a surprising essay by Zizek himself on Levi R. Bryant’s Object-Oriented Ontology. This alone would have been of interest. That Zizek would take the time to engage Bryant is telling. In many ways Bryant is a scholars scholar, his philosophical works are engaging and detailed, presenting a wide knowledge of the history of philosophy and its conceptual heritage. Each of his works is a small education in our present philosophical history as well as philosophy in its own right, inventing concepts and tools that further clarify the particular world of Objects he’s chosen to refine and measure.

Too bad the radical authors couldn’t have gone Open Access with their works. Makes one wonder if their that radical after all. Caving into the academic treadmill, allowing capitalism to set the price of knowledge, sounds like the radical thought hidden between the covers is being fed back into the capitalist loop. Is this really radical left thinking today? Should leftist authors support the capitalist marketplace in such a manner? Makes me wonder… is the Left just a mask for profit?

So as usual I’ll await a library version of this work to become available. Too bad, I’d of loved the e-book version at the equitable price of Hamza’s previous fare which seems appropriately priced for online books. Bummer.

2 thoughts on “Academic Publishing: The Cost of Philosophy?

  1. us younger radicals hunt around for pirated copies, verso in particular whines about people ripping off their pdfs but that’s how I’ve read most of what I have of verso’s catalogue being unemployed, impoverished and broke 95% of the last 3 years

    no shame about being a rhizomatic worm through the heart of publishing oriented to capital more than people and to capital more than knowledge IMHO


    • Actually Verso is very reasonable compared to what I was just describing. The book I was describing is over $75.00, and is filled with radical atheistic materialist and communist essays… so seemed a little strange that the authors would opt for such a pricey market handler as Palgrave for this work which should be given out to the ones – as you mention, that are poor and in need of such sustenance. Oh, well… to each his own…. I know I subscribe to SCRIBD which is worth it since they have a lending library and open access. There are a few other Open Access publications out there as well. The wiki link provides some but not all. And, many university sites offer such, while others seem to want to charge… I guess knowledge is still a part of that world. Just the way of things… bummer that it is.


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