Hummer readers may have been tempted to buy several recently published UQP titles. Stuart Svenson’s The Shearers War or Fitzgerald and Thornton’s Labour in Queensland are clearly the type of books which readers of Australian labour history would purchase as a matter of course. Yet having discovered the prices demanded by UQP ($34.95 each), coupled with their less than lavish format, (grotty red cover and paper best suited to wrap Friday night’s fish and chips in) perhaps some readers hastily retreated from Glebe Point Road. Given that UQP took such a prominent part last year in attacking overseas publishing consortiums for ripping off Australian consumers, Hummer felt a mite curious and peeved about the situation. A stroppy letter was despatched to St Lucia. The following response was received:
We don’t throw letters like yours, no matter how cranky, in the bin.
You raise some important matters in yours, and I will try to answer them for you.
The maroon covered editions we produce are our scholarly paperbacks. They are, as you have described, produced to minimum standards as far as cover design and paper stock is concerned. All of this is done to keep the price down and the number of new titles up.
They are produced on a 1,000 copy print run and are designed for use by other scholars for text and course work and for the interested lay public.
If we produced them in hardback, and on a better paper (which was our practice until four (4) years ago), then the price would be $70-$100, and we would do three (3) or four (4) a year and sell very few.
Using this paperback approach, we produce 15-20 titles a year and the price range is $20-$35.
We also have another paperback range (UQP paperbacks) which are similar to Picador and King Penguin. These are produced on a 3,000 run and retail between $10-$15. They are for broader market use and normally are more accessible because of writing style and a more general coverage of the subject.
These titles form the scholarly paperbacks will simply not work as general paperbacks because of their specific, specialist subject matter and scholarly approaches.
So what you are really complaining about is the fact that we have produced more scholarly paperbacks at lower prices. This seems an unfair criticism.
As the books sell consistently, and to about the 1,000 mark we have estimated, we believe we are discharging our responsibilities as a scholarly publisher.
UQP publishes all of these titles at breakeven or, most times, at a loss…
The UQP titles you referred to (The Shearer’s War) would simply never have been published if we chose the more conventional approach…
I hope The Hummer might see that there is more to book prices than just a superficial knee jerk, or hip pocket, reaction based on a preconception of price.
University of Queensland Press