Larry Hurtado has posted a critique of the business model of many academic publishers that seems to result in high priced books. He also shares his own experience in choosing between an academic publisher and ‘trade’ publisher. An excerpt:
So, I want to register a complaint about the ridiculous prices on these volumes in the Apostolic Fathers series from OUP (as illustrative of a larger problem in academic book-pricing), and urge them and other academic publishers to have the good sense to distinguish between books that must have only a limited print-run and high prices, and those books for which there is most likely a much wider interest and which could be published and marketed to put them in the hands of the many individuals who would like to have them. And from the outset, and in hardback, and we wouldn’t have to wait for a year or two till the publisher thinks it fit to bring out a paperback edition for individual purchase. How about publishing such books in larger print-runs from the outset and pricing them to sell to the many individuals who would purchase them . . . if priced reasonably?
I predict this model will decline over the next two decades as academic publishing catches up to the digital wave (I don’t mean publishing will be all or even mostly digital necessarily, but that digital tech will incentivize lower costs in print books). Part of what keeps things moving so slowly is that an entire education system is tied up with this, particularly in the West.