Adventures in Pricing

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"Adventures in Pricing"


This post by Neil Sinhababu not only contains persuasive (to me, at least) evidence that Sonia Sotomayor is, in fact, an intelligent woman, it also reminded me that I very much enjoyed the work by Peter Railton I was assigned in college. Thus, I thought I might be interested in his book Facts, Norms, and Values: Essays toward a Morality of Consequence. But here it is for sale on the Kindle for over $30 and even more for a brick-and-mortar copy.

Given that the marginal cost to Cambridge University Press of giving me a Kindle copy of the book is almost $0 it seems a bit absurd for the price to be so high. What’s more, according to the CUP website: “As a department of the University of Cambridge, its purpose is to further the University’s objective of advancing knowledge, education, learning, and research.” It seems to me that knowledge, education, learning, and research are not being advanced by seeking to extract exorbitant monopoly rents from relatively obscure philosophy books. Would not knowledge, education, learning, and research be better advanced by making such books as widely available as is practical? Obviously, in an era of physical books even a commitment to such a policy would imply a fairly high price. But electronic publishing via Kindle, it seems to me, ought to change the occasion.

We live in a world where, in principle, it ought to be viable for CUP to offer Peter Railton’s books for sale quite cheaply. That would be a world where thousands and thousands of non-specialists who read about Railton on the internet since he came up incidentally in the context of a Supreme Court confirmation might indulge their curiosity and check out some of his work. That, it seems to me, would be a world in which knowledge, education, learning, and research are being advanced.

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