Here's something about publishing that really gets under my skin.
Before becoming a teacher, I worked for an educational book publisher. I realize that I made a backwards career move since a lot of teachers go into educational publishing in order to make more money. However, the money isn't all that much better and most publishers have scummy ethics.
Anyway, I read a lot of children's books. When I'm finished, I either put the book in my classroom library for my students or give it to an upper grade teacher if it's too difficult. Each year, my school has a week-long book fair at which parents, students, and teachers can purchase books at a discount. I've wanted to read the Lemony Snicket books, so I bought one of each volume available at the fair because they were fairly cheap:
- Book 2: The Reptile Room
- Book 3: The Wide Window
- Book 8: The Hostile Hospital
- Book 10: The Slippery Slope
My copies of the above are all paperbacks.
Children's series books are usually designed so that you can read any volume without having to start at the very beginning. For example, every single Magic Tree House book includes an opening explanation of who Jack & Annie are and what the deal is with the tree house. A Series of Unfortunate Events, like Harry Potter, doesn't include background information. As a result, I want to read The Bad Beginning (Book 1) before starting in on the rest.
Yesterday, I went to Barnes & Noble to pick up the first book. They only had hardcover books so I asked a clerk if they had any paperbacks. He said that they weren't available in paperback. I begged to differ since I had four paperbacks at home. I left without The Bad Beginning after spending $70 on five other books including next month's selection. Sure, I could have plunked down the extra $9 (after my educator's discount) for the hardcover, but it was the principle. I should be able to buy a full-priced paperback for $5.
Upon closer inspection of my paperbacks, I noticed a note on the back cover: "This edition is only available for distribution through the school market." I went to the publisher's web site and ordered The Bad Beginning in paperback and the rest of the titles I'm missing. But, I was a little put off by the fact that they don't have The Austere Academy (Book 5). They also won't ship my order anywhere except school, as a means of making sure I'm part of the "school market."
So, long story short: Anyone should be able to walk into a bookstore and buy a $5 paperback when one's been printed. However, the book industry would rather sell a $12 hardcover and run away with your $6.
I hate getting ripped off.