The world of book publishing is a notoriously fraught business, with science and academic books suffering particularly badly in today’s marketplace. Where once books were sold primarily in specialist stores operated by sole traders, the emergence of the major book chains (whose retail philosophies emphasize bulk wholesale procurement) and the growth of market share accounted for by supermarkets (who now sell around one-in-five books in the UK and US) have fundamentally changed the dynamics of book production and distribution. Nowadays, marketing incentives encourage books with mass appeal to general audiences, such as celebrity biographies, TV show tie-ins, or good old-fashioned bodice-rippers. By comparison, books on (say) fundamental physics appear more obscure than ever.
In fact, the stereotype of the bookworm, the person whose low social esteem is both intensified and characterized by an interest in (bleurgh!) books, may even be becoming extinct.
As such, the arrival of e-books has been both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because digital production is not limited by the costs of paper materials or distribution logistics, a curse because the removal of such practical barriers has indirectly removed many of the organic quality control mechanisms that had evolved in the industry over centuries. Nowadays, when scanning the offerings on Amazon’s Kindle Store for example, it can simply be impossible to distinguish the genuine masterpieces from the dross. Hence the growing importance of online customer reviews, not least those embedded within the bookseller’s platform itself.
And through this resource, I have encountered the following exciting bargain: a science book available on Kindle that has received near-universally rave reviews but which has recently been massively discounted in price. In fact it is probably the biggest discount on a book price that I have ever seen in my life. And exactly how much is this startling reduction? Well, you might not believe it. You might not even want to believe it. For it’s a whopping $467! Let me say that again: the discount on the cover price of this single-volume 600-page book is A WHOPPING $467!
Yup, nearly $500 has been knocked off the original price of Nuclear Energy, by K. Heinloth (Ed.), part of the Landolt-Börnstein series on Energy Technologies published by Springer. Now that does sound like quite a lot. In fact, the discount is nearly a dollar per page. The thing is, the original price here exceeded $7,300, although that is just the Kindle Edition. The paper edition comes in at a more princely $7,790 (bargain hunters will note that this includes “free two-day shipping for students“, as well as the possibility of gift-wrapping). But paper editions are so yesterday. All the cool kids will be reading Nuclear Energy on their Kindles…
But do the cool kids like what they’re reading? They certainly do. Check out the amazing reviews…
Take this one for starters:
Or this one, which recommends the book to “anyone who has ever had an interest in energy, or has used technologies“:
It comes highly recommended as a gift:
While some readers can’t contain their excitement regarding possible sequels:
Even the negative reviews are passionate:
Although other readers are making their copy available second-hand for less disapproving reasons:
Overall, the customer reviews are a joy to behold. You can read the lot at Amazon.com here (or archived here: part 1/part 2).
Just in case you already have Nuclear Energy on your Kindle, here are some other (non-Kindle) purchasing options you could consider, should you have a book budget of around $7,300:
- A first edition, earliest issue (i.e., with original uncorrected typos) of Robert Louis Stevenson’s (1883) Treasure Island, available for just $7,700
- A handwritten and signed manuscript poem (“Bombardment”) personally drafted in 1919 by D. H. Lawrence, just $7,500
- A first edition of David Hume’s (1757) Four Dissertations, just $7,200
- Or, for variety, why not try the following combo deal?
- A first edition, first issue of Mark Twain’s (1885) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, just $3,500, and
- A personally inscribed first edition of Frederick Soddy’s (1932) The Interpretation of the Atom, also just $3,500.
However, none of the above stuff rates anywhere near Heinloth’s Nuclear Energy when it comes to customer reviews on Amazon. Another problem is that, although expensive, pretty much all of it is quite old. Even with the best of care, these products are likely to be in shoddy enough condition. On the other hand, e-books are always in brilliant condition…simply because they’re e-books!
So you’d better move quickly. As a future classic in its own right, Nuclear Energy will not be priced at a discount forever.
(Or if you can’t afford it, why not just post your own review? Who knows, people might even find it helpful…)
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.