Chicago right-prices some kindle titles

I don’t normally shill for publishers, but I did notice something the other day that I thought would be worth mentioning on the blog: University of Chicago Press has dropped the prices on much of its digital catalog to right around USD$5. In particular, many of the titles in their “Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing” are this low, including several that are pretty indispensable: Germano’s From Dissertation to Book and Emerson and Shaw’s Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Other classics that might or might not get you mileage include The Craft of Research, Tricks of the Trade, and How To Write a BA Thesis. Joseph Williams’s Style is a ridiculous USD$32 on Kindle (used earlier paper editions are cheaper), but Hackett sells The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing, which uses Williams’s method, for USD$5.35. That method rocks. 100%. There is no better way to learn to write. I sleep with Style under my pillow. For trulies.

I mention this because I’ve thought a lot about purchasing DRM’d books, what use they are, and what use they aren’t. You don’t really own them: you can’t print them up, you can’t share them, photocopy them, highlighting and annotating are limited, and let’s face it: with one snap of Amazon’s fingers they could disappear tomorrow. Sure, they are convenient. But they are convenient and evil. And you did I mention you don’t really own them?

Still, there are books that should be part of your library that are not really central to your intellectual project: I study gold mining in Papua New Guinea, for instance, so I have some good general histories of gold rushes in Australia and California on my shelves. Stuff like this takes up space on shelves and it’s nice to have on hand but… do you really need it? For books like these, such as the ‘professionalization’-style books by Chicago, having them on Kindle is nice.

The question is: how much do you want to spend for long-term rental of the right to view a book? I think Chicago’s price of five bucks is just about right. I don’t know enough about the industry to tell if Chicago is following a general trend here, but I think this price for these books (as well as some scholarly books in its backlist) is just about the maximum I’d be willing to pay. It’s an interesting development.

Amazon’s URLs are incredibly krufty and whenever I post some of them here, they never seem to work right sine you all are not logged on as me. But just search the kindle store for “Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing” and they should come up, or google individual titles.

Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at rex@savageminds.org