The Atlantic Bookshelf: Conclusion

A wrap up of book reviews from Edward Weeks

THE first five months of 1930 have been dull ones in the book trade. Business has been so bad as to call for drastic action. In this time of depression the only hopeful sign was to be observed in chain drug stores where ‘remainders’ (old books from other seasons) and reprints, reduced to $1.00, were selling briskly. Perhaps, it was thought, trade would revive if new books were similarly reduced in price. Following the lead of Doubleday, Doran, four publishers announced that their summer and fall fiction would be cut to $1.00 or $1.50. Opposed to this policy, fifteen publishers stated that they would stand pat.

In the months to come, therefore, we are to witness a fresh attempt to produce American fiction at a low price comparable to that of Continental editions. The experiment has been tried in the past and has always failed. The reasons given were, first, that our public did not want paper-hound books, and, secondly, that with our high manufacturing costs (much higher than in Europe) books could not be sold at the low price unless they were to be produced in uncommonly large editions. Competition in the field of fiction is very keen. The average sale of a novel is said to be 2500 copies; certainly an average figure for first novels, and tor many of those by established writers which do not find favor. I do not believe that cutting the price of these books will increase their sale. Whether the reduction will help to sell more copies of a popular book remains to be seen. In any event the experiment ought to have the effect of paring prices down to an economic minimum. It seems to me that in the past five years they have been pretty high.

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