July 22, 2011

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE ON HIS EXPERIMENT WITH E-PUBLISHING. Two thoughts: (1) From what I can see, $2.99 seems to be the magic price point for Kindle books. (You get more sales at 99 cents, but you get a lower percentage from Amazon, and for impulse buys the difference doesn’t seem to be that great. But I don’t know if the same pricing experience applies to academic books); and (2) Academic publishers now provide so little in the way of either editing or marketing for most books that all they really offer is the prestige of their imprint, and once you move very far down from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, that’s not really all that much. And if you’re a professor with an established reputation (as Bainbridge is) the prestige isn’t such a big deal anyway.

I’ve already reached the point where, to me, the real publication date of my scholarly articles is when they appear on SSRN, with the actual law-review appearance something of an afterthought. I can imagine scholarly books becoming that way soon. Again, for junior professors it’s still probably worth chasing publication in a top law review, but for established scholars your name is the brand, not the law review’s name.

And, interestingly, the Kindle textbook rental deal may actually be good for textbook authors who self-publish. Most big-publisher contracts have terrible E-book terms, but that doesn’t matter if you’re the publisher. And with Kindle books, you don’t have such an issue with the used-textbook market cutting into your sales after the first year.

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