Monday, March 19, 2007

Information wants to be $35

On Friday a Yahoo account named 'Mike Robe' (=microbe) offered CD-ROMs containing the entire run of “Bulletin on Counterfeits” and an index, for $35. The offer sounded bogus, but initial reports said it was legit.

The web site hosting the offer is now gone, and the seller claims his run of 25 copies sold out.

Reid Goldsborough reports that the IAPN is now considering selling a legitimate CD-ROM. No word on availability or price.

Reid concludes his message with a screed against freeloaders, saying “If I and others aren't paid for some of our work, if everything is free for the taking, guess what's going to happen to the quality of information available.”

I wish it was that simple.

I'm told that most books on ancient coins do not recoup their printing costs. Authors who have the support of a press willing to take a loss can get paid. Everyone else has to self-publish. Under these conditions it makes sense to write for free. Why would anyone want to earn NEGATIVE $7000 publishing a book? Better to put it online and only lose $10/month.

There isn't much money in numismatic writing. I've heard that RPC volumes 8 and 9 are done but there is no money to pay for publishing. The publishers of Agoranomia tell me they don't like putting 'coins' or 'coinage' in titles because it discourages libraries from buying! We are in a period in history when there is very little interest in old coins. I don't think the lack of interest is because of file-sharing. No one has offered me digital copies of RPC!

Publishers are free to charge whatever they want. A pirate who named himself after H5N1 Avian Flu sold 25 copies of BoC and made about $30x25=$750 profit last week. The IAPN made a business decision to price BoC at over $500 and probably made $0 last week. I'd rather the IAPN get the money, but that's now how economics works.

The musician Frank Zappa was very clever. Pirates released albums of his concerts. Frank took their packaging and sold it himself. The IAPN could turn around tomorrow and sell microbe's package.

I bought the IAPN's book on The Caprara Forgeries and was paying $60/year for “Counterfeit Coin Bulletin”. I thought Caprara was worth the money.

The recent incarnation of the Bulletin was not worth $60/year to a collector. It was mostly pictures of US fakes with arrows pointing to die flaws. No interesting text. To a dealer, $60 may be a bargain. Collectors don't see it that way. One suggestion is to charge a lot of money for current issues, and make additional money selling last year's issues to collectors at a lower price.

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