Sunday, 17 March 2013

Hoverfly WildGuide

At last the book is out! Only the saga has not ended because although commercial distributors have received their books and have sent them out, I am still waiting for delivery of books - I have 124 customers awaiting delivery and cannot do a thing about it until I get books!

It is all the more galling because I learn that Amazon is selling the book at about £17.50 including postage. It is almost at the rate we set as a pre-publication offer to Dipterists Forum members and makes me look like a fool for pricing the book so high (£14.00 + £2 p&p when we expected the RRP to be £17.95 - the actual RRP is nearly £25.00).

This has really rather serious ramifications for publishers of technical books. Those like Britain's Hoverflies are always going to be a niche market so the margins are extremely tight. Being pinched like this by Amazon has knock-on effects on the ability of the publishers to cover costs, and of societies such as Dipterists Forum to make sufficient income to maintain the work we do in promoting the study of flies. I for one am seriously put off from making the effort again, as this sort of undercutting prices means that the years of work that has gone into the book are being devalued.

Bearing in mind that Amazon are reported not to pay UK taxes, it seems that the UK taxpayer is suffering a double whammy - it gets no tax, and its legitimate local businesses that do pay tax are being out-competed. I start to think the only solution is to produce free books as pdfs and give up trying to produce hard copy. We perhaps need to take more control of products.

Stuart and I are intending to produce a supplement to Stubbs and Falk this Autumn. We will publish it under the HRS and DF banners and will make it available only through us. My feeling is that we will need to issue it as a pdf for free download and maybe do a small print run to meet the needs of those who want a bound copy. We can probably do this via 'print on demand' and keep the costs to a modest level.

In the longer-term, we are also intending to write a replacement for Stubbs & Falk. We have a few ideas, but again it would be our intention to find ways of taking more control of the product. For reasons I will not expand upon, it is time to consider a new format and a different publishing arrangement.

For those who have got hold of the book, I do hope you enjoy it. For those who still await your copy - I will be chasing the distributors tomorrow (especially as I have not received my copy either!).


  1. Selling e-books might be useful midpoint between publishing print and free pdfs. I think there's a lot to recommend the format to naturalists, since you can't really take very many books into the field, but I could fit my entire collection into a decent e-reader if I scanned them.

    Anyway, congratulations on the publishing of what looks like a fantastic new guide, and I hope you aren't put off making new ones.

  2. I received my copy from NHBS a few days ago and have to say I am delighted. I can only imagine the amount of time and effort that has gone into it and the £RRP is good value in my opinion so I too was disappointed that Amazon was doing it at £17.50, not because I had missed a "bargain" but because clearly someones margins were being squeezed badly. As you say this book is aimed at a niche market and whatever price Amazon sell it at will make no difference to them at all but if the income from these sort of books is eroded then we are likely to see less of them in the future.

    But on a positive note the book is great and I love the use of detailed annotated photos to point out specific characteristics. Congratulations.