Even book publishers must stare hard at the bottom line

Letter from Pete Hammond

Book Publishing – May 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine


I should know better … but I can’t help butting heads with you a bit over your comments regarding keeping books in print.

No publisher wants to put a book out of print. Steady backlist sellers are the lifeblood of any book publisher. I can’t speak for the publisher in this case [Pruett] but I can only assume that the sales of the book dwindled to the point where reprinting a small quantity was no longer “economically viable.”

I’m sorry to say we now live in a world where even book publishers must take economics into account – but we do.

Prices for book-grade papers have risen dramatically, making small reprints a much riskier proposition. Since paper costs do not go down in proportion to an increase in print run as quickly as do the other components of printing (time on press, plate costs, pre-press, etc.) this has caused a great many small regional titles to go out of print recently.

It is also a big reason why it is impossible to price these books at the levels you suggest. The book business is facing a great many problems these days — the homogenization of the trade and domination by a few chains and wholesalers, competition with other forms of entertainment and communication, and, dare we mention, a growing cultural illiteracy in our country. Also, there’s just too much being published for the market (the main cause of remainders).

I’ll be glad to discuss, and rant, about this over beers sometime.

Pete Hammond

Marketing Director

University Press of Colorado