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« Real jobs in philosophy, part 8: Marcus Arvan (University of Tampa) | Main | Hobbies vs. Distractions »

05/05/2016

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kindle

Hi Marcus,

It looks great!

Any chance of a Kindle addition? More generally, did you learn anything about the possibility of having kindle additions?

Do you know why the paperback is $99?

Derek Bowman

A related question: I know of academic authors who have specifically negotiated with their publisher to keep the price of the book down with the aim of increasing its readership. Is this something that only senior academics have the leverage to negotiate and/or is this possible only at certain academic publishers?

Marcus Arvan

Hi kindle: Thanks! I have no idea why the paperback is $99. Publishers' pricing of academic books is strange (and frustrating!). I also don't know if there is a Kindle addition planned. However, there is an ebook version available for $79.99 (http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781137541802 ), and apparently it is possible to convert ebooks to kindle format (http://www.pcworld.com/article/246323/how_to_convert_an_ebook_to_the_amazon_kindle_format.html ). I really do wish the book were cheaper -- but unfortunately there was nothing I could really do to negotiate a lower price.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Derek: I approached a mentor in the profession about that, and they encouraged me to try to negotiate a more affordable price-point. Unfortunately, the negotiation didn't get very far, as the publisher told me they sell all their academic books for a similar price. At the end of the day, I don't know whether I simply lacked leverage, or whether some publishers don't negotiate (as far as I can tell from looking at their catalog, my publisher does indeed sell all of its books for a similar price). Still, I do wish the price were lower, as I suspect it is a real barrier to having one's work get read. I have a lot of friends who initially expressed interest in buying the book...until they learned the price! But, I guess that's just how the academic publishing business works.

Author

Marcus,
The Academic Presses are counting on Library sales, academic libraries. This is one of the only things that makes its profitable to produce academic books, given the sales numbers.
Even priced lower (say, 2/3 the price), they would not make more money. Rather, they would just need to sell far more copies.

Marcus Arvan

Author: Right - I totally get the business model, and don't begrudge publishers for doing what makes financial sense for them. I signed a contract knowing that, and under the belief that the deal is beneficial for me as an author on balance. All that being said, it's surely not the most optimal arrangement for getting one's work read widely!

Author

Hi Marcus,
Of course every author would like their book to be widely read. As an academic author, the important thing is for the book to be taken seriously by other academics. Ideally, your book will lead to you being invited to give talks at various universities. Ideally, it will be discussed in the scholarly literature. Remember it is an academic book you published, not a trade book.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Author: Yep, totally agree!

kindle

I hadn't noticed the eBook possibility. Thanks!

Pendaran Roberts

I've been thinking of writing a book and have a proposal. But the more I think about it the less satisfying the idea becomes. They cost so much, and sell a few hundred copies, which sit on library shelves. It's true that to be successful the book only needs to be read by a few people in your area who then cite it in publications and engage with your arguments. But then I wonder why a few articles wouldn't be better? I don't know. A book is cool. I'm just not sure...

Marcus Arvan

Hi Pendaran: your concerns about publishing a book are reasonable. It was the most time and energy intensive thing I've ever done (by far), and it is a bit nerve wracking wondering if anyone will read the thing (and if so, whether anyone will like it). But I will say this: I still think it can make sense to write a book. Some projects (such as mine) are so broad and interrelated that it wouldn't be very feasible--or desirable--to try to publish it as a series of journal articles. My book is 8 chapters long, and each chapter builds on the last. Given that it can take anywhere from 3 months to several years to publish a single article in a good journal, publishing an entire book as a series of articles could take well upwards of a decade. And it can be important to publish stuff much more quickly than that. After all, the literature develops very fast. For instance, in the past year, several ideas in my book that would have been new to the literature were published on by other people. One can only imagine how many "new" ideas one would have to hold back (for years!) if, instead of publishing an entire book, one published articles sequentially. At the end of the day, I was given a great piece of advice: write a book if, and only if, you have a set of ideas that need to be published as a book. If you can publish your ideas as self-contained articles, do that. If not, you have to write a book. That's the choice I faced, and it's why I wrote a book.

Derek Bowman

"And it can be important to publish stuff much more quickly than that. After all, the literature develops very fast. For instance, in the past year, several ideas in my book that would have been new to the literature were published on by other people."

Why is think that (apart from the needs of tenure and promotion) this provides a reason to write a book? If others are going to arrive at and publish many of these ideas anyway, why should I think it's so important that I get my version out?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Derek: I didn't suggest that others are going to arrive at the same ideas anyway, or that that would be a reason to write a book. My book has a lot of ideas in it--and although a few people have published ideas similar to three (very) minor ideas in the book, I develop those ideas in distinctive ways, and there are a lot of other much more major ideas that others may or may not develop. A great deal of the history of philosophy and science is different people having some similar ideas and some different ideas, and then developing those similar and different ideas in distinct ways--some of which work better than others (Einstein, for instance, developed relativity much better than Poincare; Darwin developed the theory of evolution much better than Russel Wallace; etc.). It's good for people to develop and publish their ideas when they can (viz. "let a thousand flowers bloom") so that, out of the diversity, the best ideas (hopefully) emerge. Anyway, from my perspective, there is one good reason to write a book: you have ideas that would be best developed and presented in book form. That's why I wrote my book, at any rate. I had philosophical ideas I was excited about, they were most appropriate for a book format, and I wanted to develop them for my own intrinsic interest in them (I love ideas, discovery, etc.) and for consideration (to see if, indeed, the ideas are any good)--end of story. It honestly bothers me when people mention tenure and promotion because, although books count toward those things, they are not in my view good reasons to write a book, and not, in any case, the reason I wrote mine. The only reason I mentioned time (getting things out quickly) was purely pragmatic: it is easier to get people to publish things the more original they are. If one has a bunch of ideas now, some of which some other people might have and others other people might not have, there is no good reason to wait. One might as well publish the stuff sooner rather than later.

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