This week, I'll be having an email dialogue with Ellen Ruppel Shell, whose new book, "Cheap", argues that cheapness is often no bargain.
 
Dear Megan,

It's great chatting with you about my new book, "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture."

Today's International Herald Tribune does a fairly good job of sizing up the themes, but CHEAP builds the case that our Faustian pact with low price consumer goods has contributed to the worst recession in decades. I argue that the economics of cheap cramps innovation, contributes to the decline of once flourishing industries and deepens income disparity. I give evidence that marketers have created a false dichotomy between price and quality by squeezing out the middle ground and leading us to believe that quality of almost any kind must by definition be overpriced. And I suggest that by understanding this, and taking action, consumers can gain control over a system that has until now misled us into making choices that come back to haunt us--both personally and politically.

As an experienced economics reporter with a degree in business, I know you'll have plenty to say about all this--and I welcome your thoughts. Can't wait to get started.

All best, Ellen

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.