At about this time last year, I decided to embark upon Master Knitter certification with several of my LYS cohorts. We were all very gung-ho for about two months, at which point we started questioning our sanity when we spent multiple hours agonizing over the unevennes of our 2×2 ribbing. One of the most interesting parts of the process – for me, probably not for everyone else – is the writing section. There are short answer questions as well as a sort of research paper – everything has to be documented, and there’s a fairly short list of exhaustively helpful books. One of those books is titled Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt.
Up until last week, it was nigh to impossible to find a copy of it. 500 pages of highly-detailed written instructions on all sorts of techniques and tips on knitting. Very basic illustrations, black-and-white photos… but a treasure trove of information. “Normal” prices in destash or on eBay ran anywhere from $150-400 (that’s right, those are hundreds of dollars) for a copy. And last week marked its re-release in a second edition: now more than 700 pages in a hardbound volume, still with very basic illustrations and black-and-white pictures.
Well. We all pre-ordered copies and have spent the past few days drooling over it at the LYS as we wait for ours to arrive… and I’ve been watching with great interest as an online fight unfolds. The hard copy of the book has a suggested retail price of $45. Most independent booksellers and LYSs can’t undercut that too much, if at all. Amazon and Barnes and Noble, of course, have a huge advantage in distribution and are selling the tome at the low, low, low price of $22.50. However, this monster of a book is also available as an e-Book through Google, B&N and Amazon. The e-book price is basically $34. And teh Internets are OUTRAGED! OUTRAGED, I tell you!
On Ravelry and Amazon, there are people who are absolutely livid, dishing out one-star ratings as though the Mayan Apocalypse were happening tomorrow. “Let the publishers hear our voices! They’ll only listen if we refuse to pay!” “YOU WOULD GET MORE PURCHASES IF YOU CUT THE PRICE OF THE E-BOOK.” “I simply won’t pay 51% more for the Kindle version.” I tried to point out to one reviewer that actually, the e-book price is 27% below the suggested retail price of $45. “Amazon and Barnes and Noble are selling the hardback for $22.50. It doesn’t matter what the suggested retail price is if no one’s selling it for that price,” s/he replied.
But that’s just it. Independent booksellers and local yarn shops are selling it for that price (at least one LYS I follow on Ravelry said that they won’t have more than 3 or 4 copies because they can’t afford the unsold inventory). They can’t undersell the online giants. And these people up in arms about the e-book price are hacked off because, really, how DARE a publishing company stand up for its authors, editors, graphic designers, typists, etc. and make sure they’re going to get paid for all of their work? How DARE they establish a minimum price on something that’s really only a collection of ideas and amazingly detailed research, and not even on real paper?
GRRRRRRRR. I understand their criticisms, and sure, I’d like to have a cheaper e-book, too. But I also want to see everyone involved in the writing, editing, illustration, and hard-copy-to-e-book conversion processes get their paycheck since I’m using part of mine to buy their work. It’s the indignant European academic in me, I suppose, but I’m really okay with paying a little bit more to have an electronic version that’s just as beautiful as the hard copy that I can’t wait to have land on my doorstep next week.* It makes me sad to see that people really are willing to haggle to the penny for the cheapest version of something, authors’ rights to earn a living be damned. So I’ll be buying the e-book version of this lovely monstrosity of a knitting book at its suggested retail price, and maybe even dropping a line to Ms. Hiatt herself via the publishers to thank her for her work**, her time, and being willing to provide us with a great reference tool that will last for many generations of knitters to come.
* I must confess that I’m feeling a little conflicted about this. The LYS where I
live work and teach announced they’d have copies for pre-order just after I placed my pre-order through Amazon. I didn’t cancel because there was still a pretty hefty price difference, even with my employee discount… but at the same time, the shop owner and I both know that I invest a pretty significantly non-zero amount of my time and paycheck at the shop, so I think it all evens out in the end and I can therefore sleep at night.
** The woman RETYPED THE ENTIRE ORIGINAL BOOK because the printing materials for the first edition no longer existed when she went back to start work on the second edition. 500+ pages of typing. She and Dorothy Mantooth are saints.