Knowledge Musings

Musings about knowledge management as I go about my daily life

Friday, February 15, 2008

What Price Books?

I happened to be doing a search on Google yesterday, found a link I was interested in, and lo and behold - up pops a page of my book (Knowledge Networking) from Google Books. Two opposite immediate thoughts came to mind:

1. Why should people be able to read my book for free and deprive me of roylaties?
2. That's nice - I know it's difficult to get hold of now - so at least others can read it.

On the first, since it was published in 1999 I don't get many royalties now and anway I think it's out of print, since links on both Amazon and publisher's wesbite point to an expensive audio version. In any case, I don't think many readers will persevere with the media. It's not like a PDF you can download - you have to laboriously scroll from page to page. I found a chapter in someone else's book I was interested in and while fine for browsing a few pages, is not ideal for serious study. Further, it seems that books are incomplete and I think there are limits on the number of pages an individual can view (more on this in Google books FAQs).

On the second point, it's certainly useful to be able to point people at specific sections, without having to extract or risk violating the publisher's copyright. I was in the process of doing a 2nd edition a few years ago, but instead decided that writing books - unless you create a best seller - is not really very profitable, so I have focussed on packaging my knowledge in the form of shorter more specific guides and reports (see my K-Shop).

So how much is a book worth? It all depends on how you the reader values it. I get a lot of content from the web these days for free - and am quite happy to browse a long report on my notebook PC. Would I pay for such material? Yes - if I felt it really useful to me and I couldn't get the content anywhere else - but I would need to be convinced, typically by the comments of colleagues or independent reviewers. Certainly Google Books allows you to preview - as they say it is "designed to help you discvoer books, not read them from start to finish". That leads to my other point on value. There is nothing like the convenience of paper. So if there's a book I'm going to use a lot in different places, then its worth buying. Of course, I'm always looking for deals, and when I've finished with it and want it no more, there are many ways to recycle it - and not just in the recycle bin, but through others in my network, Amazon marketplace, book stalls at fetes and so on.

Talking of value what I do resent is paying very high prices - like $100 or more - not for unique in-depth research - but for books that because they are published through an academic imprint, cost three times more than what they should. Regrettably this has also happened to some peer reviewed KM journals, which when launched cost only a few hundred dollars a year subscription but are now over $1,000. But's that's another story (or blog!).

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