A Pricing Model for Information.

Posted by Lawrence Bowdish, community karma 347

I am going to bring up something that should be near and dear to everyone's heart at Scholastica - how should information be priced?

There are a couple of markets for information (in our academic world).

One is for easily digestible syntheses, most often seen in textbooks. I never assigned a textbook in a history course, and my argument was that the cost of information in the 21st century was so low that buying a textbook seemed ridiculous. While resale values remain surprisingly high for good textbooks, it is only because there is a trapped market (the price for textbooks is inelastic until it becomes out of date then it snaps to very elastic).

Another is for monographs. Some of the relatively higher cost of monographs has to do the mechanics of its publishing (either rightly or wrongly), but much of the higher cost of these books seems to prop up academic publishing houses so they can continue their business (again, rightly or wrongly). It is also somewhat hurt by the used book market.

Another is for new/original research. Sort of like monographs, but less of a market for used sales. It generally has both a publisher and a distributor.

I guess the flip side of this question is who needs to be directly paid for the information? In some cases, the owners of the information get paid (labs, data centers). In most, the analysts of the information get paid (the authors). In all, the publisher gets paid (for production, editing, etc.). And then, when applicable, the distributors get paid. How should the sales be cut up?

(Aside: I taught for a historian in an intro course who co-wrote the textbook with three other people. She did not feel right taking the royalties from sales from her class, so she had the bookstore tell her how many were sold. She took her share of the royalties (about $5 on a $60-70 book), multiplied by the number of books sold, and had the class propose and then vote on a charity to receive the roughly $500. I didn’t know what to think about $5 on a $70 dollar share, because I didn’t know if she received an upfront payment)

I have no clue if information is priced correctly, but am tempted to think it is either not wrong (since the market works) or the market is busted.

What does everyone think? I know I’ve presented a very broad thing here, but would like to get some input.



1 Comment

Lawrence Bowdish, community karma 347

An addendum - a report on the growing Elsevier boycott...


almost 12 years ago
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