A frank exchange of opinion

Isn’t blogging wonderful (sometimes)? On Sunday, Susan Hill protested about the price being charged for Nicola Watson’s book The Literary Tourist. After a short review of the book, she wrote: "But in their wisdom the publishers have not only made it look more like a scholarly book than a popular one  which is a pity – but worse they have the nerve to charge £45 for it. Yes, you heard me correctly. Even libraries – which do not buy many new books now anyway – are not going to order this for you. I tell you what. I challenge Palgrave to hand THE LITERARY TOURIST over to their general division, Macmillan. I then challenge Macmillan to issue another edition – for the general interested reader, with a new, more lively jacket and as a paperback, to cost no more than £10. It still would not (probably) make Richard and Judy but it would definitely reach the parts that a £45 academic book will not reach. And if Macmillan won’t do it, with my publisher’s hat on, I will."  Five people agree with her, in the comments to the blog post.

The next day, Monday, Richard Charkin, CEO of Macmillan, responded:  "Susan’s commentators are horrified at the idea of paying £45 for a 250 page book. Compared to discounted Harry Potter of course £45 seems expensive. But is it? Try comparing the price with a shirt, a meal in a London restaurant, a ticket to a major sporting event, a train ticket, an hour of a lawyer’s time. I think academic books are amazingly good value. They are permanent. They are valuable. They are great value for money. They are the fruit of extensive research and application. They are fundamental to the scholarly process. They reach a global audience and are readily available through libraries for those who cannot afford to purchase. They are fit for purpose and worth every penny. Thank goodness academic publishers have worked out a way of continuing to publish academic works commercially in spite of library budget constraints and falling print runs."

This type of exchange, between two top, well-informed, open-minded and opinionated publishers would not have happened, on this timescale at least, 10 years ago. More’s the pity. But now, thanks to the willingness of the two individuals concerned to write openly about their views as well as the good old Internet, we can all see for ourselves how these pricing decisions are made. To take an example somewhat closer to home, I would rather stay in and read (and, if I so choose, re-read) a £45 book than spend £50 on seeing "We will rock you" in the West End (and have to spend another £50 if I wanted to see it again).

Coram Boy on Broadway

If you are in New York this week you can see the fantastic play Coram Boy on Broadway (nominated for six Tony awards) for as little as $25, for performances from today to 27 May.

Go to this part of the NT website  for more details. Go here to order or call 212-947-8844.
For the $25 seats use code CB4NPEM (mezzanine); for the $66.25 tickets, use code CBGNA67 (orchestra); or bring this offer to the Imperial Theatre, 249 W 45th Street.

From the NT website:  "CORAM BOY, an amazingly rare theatrical experience [is] arriving direct from a sold-out run at London’s National Theatre. CORAM BOY is set in 18th-century England, where two orphans get a second chance in life at a home for deserted children. One has been rescued from an African slave ship. The other is the abandoned son of the heir to a great estate. The boys are given two very different roads to follow and the adventure of a lifetime begins!" And, they forgot to say, the music (mainly Handel) is a running theme in the play, and truly wonderful.

Here is Richard Morrison, excellent columnist and the Times’ chief music critic, on Thomas Coram, and here is his exuberant article about the play and the music in it.

Here is the Times review of the original production.

And see here for an (as ever) lovely post by Clare of Keeper of the Snails about the Foundling Museum in Coram Fields, London. From Clare’s post:

"Whereas other cities in Europe had homes for foundlings, London did not. It was thought that by having a hospital for foundlings society would be seen to be condoning loose morals; because most of the children were born to unmarried mothers.
Coram faced a long campaign. It took him 17 years to establish the Hospital, but once the Hospital was started he was almost immediately ousted by a committee coup. I keep wondering what he felt about this – doing all that work and then not having much to do with his great accomplishment.
It was a secular independent charity – the first time such an institution had ever been established. One of its greatest innovations was to invite Hogarth to display his pictures there,  which encouraged other artists and it subsequently became the first public gallery in London. Another benefactor was Handel who donated an organ to the chapel and conducted recitals there."

Going to the Harrogate Crime festival

Link: Anyone else thinking of going to the Harrogate Crime festival? – crimespace.

Laura Root asks on Crimespace (link above) who is going to the Harrogate Crime festival this year. I was hoping to go, but it turns out I have a prior engagement (in addition to the little matter of Harry Potter 7 being published at the same time), so sadly will not be going.

But if you’d like to find out a good selection of people who are (and who aren’t) going, and for which bits, please go to Laura’s Crimespace discussion at the link above.  If you aren’t already a member of the Crimespace group on Ning I expect you’ll have to sign up, but it is free.