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"Kevin. Mac Donnell" <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 17 Sep 2007 18:58:46 -0500
text/plain (23 lines)
I would urge caution in using those calculators. Prices are relative; not
everything has increased in cost by the same factor. If you compare the cost
of the average novel in 1885 (say $1.50) to the average cost of a novel
today (say $25) that's an increase by a factor of 16.6.  Using different
figures would produce a different factor, of course. But here's where it
gets more complex. That $3.25 price was for a copy bound in full sheep, a
binding that would cost you about $300 today, and the $4.25 copies were for
3/4 morocco, which would cost you about $250 today. Labor was cheap in 1885,
so those copies in leather bindings cost very little extra compared to what
comparable leather bindings would cost today.

And what about the prices for HF in California?  Copies sold in the Golden
State in 1885 cost $3.50, $4, and $5.50 (the extra cost was the extra
expense of shipping them to the west coast). If you calculate those price
differences using any reasonable factor (16 to 25), those are hefty premiums
for the extra shipping costs. But today shipping is cheap (about $8 to ship
a $300 book the size of HF via Media Mail/insured anywhere in the US), so
Californians don't pay a premium for the Twain books they buy these days,
which explains why most of them I meet seem happy enough.

Kevin Mac Donnell
Austin TX