Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Okay all you double entendre fans, the word Nook in the title refers to the e-reader device of that name.  Most of my friends can guess that I am not a big fan of Paul Krugman the Nobel prize winning leftwing idealogue who masquerades as an economist.  I use the word "masquerade" because one of the first economists I worked with in a discrimination case told me "liberal economist" is an oxymoron.  No REAL economist, he told me, is a liberal.  His argument was that everything we know about economics tells us that a free market with fee competition produces the optimum world for the consumer who is you and I.  We are the consumers and we benefit the most from a free market system. The real arguments against socialism, he told me, were all to be found in the history of socialist economies vs. Free enterprise economies.

Having said all of that.  And it is a lot.  Paul Krugman, who also masquerades as a liberal, has found the academic sweet spot where his text books sell for outrageous prices (if you think $156.81 for a paperback is outrageous)   to students who are forced to buy them.  You can rent it for less.  That means they mail it to you and charge you for the shipping and you mail it back to them and pay for the shipping.  All in all, if you take care of the book and don't write in it or let it get dirty you can save about a hundred bucks.  But, having downloaded books from iBooks and Kindle you think, hey, I will download that book to my mini iPad and save the shipping and be able to add annotations and underlines.  Foolish you.  If you could do that easily, no one would buy the paper book.  Or at least, a lot fewer people would do that.  I'm one of the ones who wouldn't.  I love e-books.  I have about 30 of them on my iPad.  And that is one of the reasons I love them.  I can easily carry a hundred books in my purse.  Yay!!!! (As a senior citizen with presbyopia, I love them for the adjustable viewing features as well)  But I digress.

I am not planning to read Paul Krugman any time soon, but alas, a student in my life is one of the unfortunates who is required to read this piece of trash for a course.  So it has to be read.  We set about trying to download it et cetera when we discovered that Barnes and Noble is engaging in a very old and long term unsuccessful marketing strategy.  They have a monopoly on the book.  That is to say, they are the only on line seller from whom you can buy it.  They have a whole text book department full of books on which they have a monopoly of that sort.  They know you have to have it as do the publishers so they can charge 10 times what other willing buyers pay for this author's books.

Now for the e-book aspect.  Having downloaded literally dozens of books from Amazon and iBooks, I figured I knew how to do this.  I had not run in to the Nook e text book yet.  So I will let you know the scam.  Barnes and Noble tells you, on their Nook textbooks page, that you can read your textbook anywhere (this is not a new feature of books, of course.  Except for the biggest and the heaviest, you could always read them everywhere.).  Despite that claim, it turns out that you can only download text books to your computer, not an ipad, kindle or nook.  So actually, you can only read them somewhere that you can take a computer.  If you have a laptop, that's cool.  If you have opted for an iPad, Kindle or Nook, you are out of luck.  The reason given for this is that textbooks, in B & N's opinion, don't really look good on small screens.  Hmmmm.   Apple seems to have gotten past this so-called problem as has Amazon.  If, like a lot of people, you have a desktop computer and a tablet device the only place you can read your textbook is on your desk top  computer screen.  And we all know how comfortable that is.

So if you want to read your textbook "anywhere" you have to invest in a new laptop.  Or you can just invest in the old portable approach, which is to buy the paperback for $153.00.  It may be heavy and you will never want to read it again after the class is over, but at least  you won't have to worry about spilling your coffee on it and you won't have two trips to the post office.

If you could buy the e-book version from Kindle or iBooks, you would.  Better still, you would rent it from them if  could.  Another student I know rented a textbook for the semester in an e-book version at a considerable savings.  When the rental period runs out, the text book deletes itself from her tablet.  The essence of a cool marketing arrangement.  Made possible by Amazon, not Barnes and Noble.

This whole marketing arrangement and the monopolistic power of Barnes and Noble are brought to you by the upper level elites of the Academic Econosphere who have somehow persuaded all of us to give them the power over our lives that they have.  How can I say that?  Professors, or at least the academic establishment, has the power to designate the books that will be textbooks.  In my Education for Ministry class ( I am a co-mentor) The University of the South has just decided to move to textbooks (from a self published course).  The books they plan to use which are very scholarly and written by widely acclaimed academics, are sold as regular books (not textbooks) through Amazon.  While we thought the prices a bit steep at first, they are positively cheap next to the books sold through Barnes and Noble's text book service.

Does Paul Krugman have a choice as to where to sell his textbook?  Yes.  HE does.  He sells other books that are sold through Amazon for $14.95 or less. But those are books that people can choose not to buy.  (I, for example choose not to buy).  But when he has a captive market of students who want the stamp of approval from some institution of higher learning, he gouges them.  Or he signs up with a publisher who gouges them.  This is reprehensible behavior from anyone but even more so from Paul Krugman because he writes such supposedly caring drivel in the New York Times everyday about the harsh and uncaring Republican party.  But when the opportunity to gouge poor students comes along, why, he takes it.  Of course, he is not the only person making millions off of students.  But so what?  Put your money where your mouth is, Mr. Krugman.  Make your textbooks available on Amazon for a reasonable price if you really mean what you say about social justice.  I am not holding my breath.  More proof that liberal and hypocrite tend to go together.  Especially when you are talking about wealthy liberals.