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Book Prices, and another thing

 
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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
Posts: 131
Location: Great Britain

PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2006 5:40 pm    Post subject: Book Prices, and another thing Reply with quote

I've always been interested in ships and the sea, yet it is only recently (past year) that i've taken a serious, methodical look at Dreadnoughts and associated lore.

Whilst searching for literature on the matter, I've noticed that any good books are astronomically expensive. I have yet to understand why any relatively new book should be so expensive. Raven and Roberts' "British Battleships of World War Two" averages around $300, even though it's only 30 years old and was published by a major company! I've seen copies listed for nearly five hundred dollars, which is absurd. My first edition of Whitman's Deathbed Poems isn't worth that much!
Recent works such as those of Sumida and Brooks never fare below 3 figures, and in general I'm horrified that it should cost so much to learn about a great period of military-economic history. I know for a fact that no book costs more than one hundred dollars to produce (I know gun book authors who publish their own tomes), and I find it hard to believe that the authors are raking it in. They're far too busy writing to preserve their academic statuses to bother about great deals.

Okay, rant over, just had to vent. It just means that my book shopping list reads like a race to the thousand pound mark.

One other point.
I recently bought "The Grand Fleet" by D.K. Brown for the ludicrously cheap price of 11.95 (at last, a good book at a good price!). Having read it through and through, and marvelled at it, I came across one bizaare sentence. In a caption underneath a very purposeful and elegant H.M.S. Superb in 1919, Brown writes "However, the 12in gun Dreadnoughts were obsolescent by the end of the war and much inferior to US and Japanese ships under construction". Far be it from me to criticise Mr Brown, but isn't that just the greatest statement of the bleeding obvious in history? Superb (Dreadnought No.3) was commisioned before the first U.S. Dreadnought was launched! Maybe I'm over-reacting, but then again it was the only nit-pick i could find in his book apart from his understandably blatant constuctor's bias.

I don't want to clutter your forums up Tone, so I'll add this in here as well;
Looking at the aforementioned picture of H.M.S. Superb, I was struck at how "modern" such an early dreadnought had become. "Obsolescent" they may have become (although if they'd been upgraded as much as the Fusos were they'd have been a force to be reckoned with), to me they have a certain classic look to them; not so spare as when commisioned, nor so piled up as the Royal Oaks (last second generation class);



Maybe old fashioned and extremely irrelevent, but I suppose these days "Aesthetics" would probably be counted an integral part of Dreadnought discussions (I'll see in February).

EDIT: The picture above is of HMS Temeraire in 1918, which looks extremely similar to HMS Superb as mentioned above. The image was taken from a post card on eBay I was bidding on, which reached the price of $20. As I'm too busy saving for good books, I left the card alone when it reached $15 :roll:.


Last edited by Harley on Tue Jan 03, 2006 3:15 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Horsa



Joined: 09 Dec 2005
Posts: 32
Location: England

PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Whilst searching for literature on the matter, I've noticed that any good books are astronomically expensive.


I've always assumed that this was to do with print runs. Most of the investment in writing a specialist work of non-fiction is in the research and academic expertise generally, just to get the book up and running. These authors/publishers are unlikely to ever rake off much money from the sheer numbers of units sold so the natural thing is to pump up the unit price. Having said that I've noticed recently that these books seem to be more expensive in the US than the UK . I recently chased a book on Ebay ( Battleships of the Grand Fleet by Burt ) and did some research to establish what its market value might be if bought directly from a second hand book seller. In the UK I could get it for about $250 ( roughly translated) whereas it was pushing $500/600 in the US. One unfortunate spin off of this was that american dealers would be prepared to bid on Ebay.co.uk at a price beyond what I felt comfortable with, knowing they had a more robust market at home.
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jwduquette1



Joined: 20 Dec 2005
Posts: 90

PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 1:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice photo.

I sympathize with you about the cost of decent books on Dreadnoughts. Like Horsa, I suspect the prices are a function of the limited printing runs and the need for publishers to recoup costs. I'd guess the world wide audience for such things is rather limited. I was told that the recent book by John Brooks "Dreadnought Gunnery And The Battle Of Jutland: The Question Of Fire Control" had a print run of only 400-copies. Thus the $115 to $135 price tag.
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Adrian Dobb



Joined: 13 Nov 2005
Posts: 41
Location: Devon, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think this is a good point. Though I can see the obvious logic of a limited print run I do suspect publishers are being a bit savvy. Many military or naval history books receive short print runs but few fetch such exceptional prices at publication. I think that in Brook's case they know there are only limited published works on the subject and they figure 'dreadnought heads' will pay the price and they'll get to shift all the print run. When I picked up my copy the sales assistant commented that for an expensive book the title was selling well. Brown's works seem to have gone the other way, i.e with over ambitious print runs, hence they are still turning up at nice prices on book club lists etc. I often wait to pick up books I want like this but the price of Brook's book signalled to me this or a paperback run is unlikely to happen - so I bought!
One to the publishers.
Its also a pity publishers won't re-issue older important reference books like Raven and Roberts, I would have thought there was sufficient demand to cover a new limited print run, and it would help push down the second hand value, but I guess retailers need to make a living too. Mind you, I have found that when I do buy expensive second hand it soon afterwards seems to be re-issued with copies flooding the market! Thank goodness for the obscure little jems that occasionally turn up for almost next to nothing.

Also I agree it isn't really fair to compare the likes of Superb with Fuso/Nevada etc. Those ships really stack up against the QE's. The Superb's however I'd say compare favourably with Michigan or perhaps Kawachi. Maybe its the really short service life of these ships that prompted Brown's comment? It really shows the speed of naval technological development at the time. All dreadnoughts look nice to me, but Superb does look the part here.

Adrian
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maxyang



Joined: 31 Oct 2004
Posts: 100
Location: Shanghai, China

PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I have been watching Ebay from time to time trying to get my most favorite, "British Battleships of World War I" by Burt. I missed one great chance some time ago. One guy was offering it on Ebay at 87US$ direct buy. I clicked the wrong button and that goes into bidding and finished at 200US$. That is my biggest regret these years. :(

One good thing I see this price-race is that the interests in big ships in WWI era are rising. Apart from commercial benefits, at least, there are more people you can chat with now. :)
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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
Posts: 131
Location: Great Britain

PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A stroke of luck! For some inexplicable reason my rather mediocre University (Leeds, England) has The Question of Fire Control and all three of Sumida's major works in the Brotherton Library. What annoys me is I've spent hours searching through the Modern History sections where they're located and never seen them before. Annoying. From what I've discovered, none of them have been withdrawn in a very long time, which makes me wonder why they were bought (with Taxpayer's money) in the first place.

Thanks for the feedback, anyway, guys. I was on eBay earlier today checking on a RN book of seamanship I bid on days ago. Was outbid to a stupid level ($17) - so I looked for another one - bid on that, and that went to a stupid level ($20) - both copies were being won by the same person! There are some absolutely rephrehensible people on eBay...[/i]
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
Posts: 75
Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2007 8:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brooks' book was recommended to me by a well-known naval history
professor and it was then that I discovered this truth about the high
prices of this kind of book. Indeed, I had concluded that I simply couldn't
justify it, as much as I wanted to read it.
The solution for me I stumbled upon was "e-books." Brooks' book was
available here and could be purchased for on-line reading or downloading
for about 35-40 dollars.
If it were not for this, though, I might have just passed and waited.
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tone
Site Admin


Joined: 29 Oct 2004
Posts: 479
Location: Boston

PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2007 5:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Book Prices, and another thing Reply with quote

Harley wrote:





I notice these alterations:

1. removed fore topmast
2. added secondary battery (and torpedo?) control positions high on bridge, both sides (I'm guessing this is those pillboxes)
3. light aloft director tower forward
4. enclosed foretop

Bargami -- would love to know your thoughts on reading Brooks in any form.

tone
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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
Posts: 131
Location: Great Britain

PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2007 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh dear, I was really out of my depth when I started this depth.

Since this forum got me actively interested in battleships I must have spent over a 1000 on the subject, since February of last year! But I can't say that I regret it, not one bit.

Fortunately, John Brooks' book has been published in paperback (at least in Britain) and is now available for about $40, which is somewhat more acceptable, and should tomorrow be a rewarding day I may go purchase a copy (amazon.co.uk).

I know the common consensus is secondary directors for the pillboxes on the bridge superstructure, but I'm wondering if they're maybe searchlight directors...The aft searchlights had two directors abaft the second funnel so maybe the for'ard searchlights have a similar setup?

Simon
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
Posts: 75
Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2007 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tone, the enquiry that led me to Brooks' book was actually not about Pollen,
Dreyer and their competition but about Beatty's hesitation in opening fire at
Jutland during the Run to the South. In reply the professor recommended Brooks for the explanation and pointed to faulty fire control procedures
in the BCS.
Regarding the first half of the book, laying out the path of Pollen's relationship with the Admiralty and the development of his system, and
then Dreyer's development of his, including much technical detail, I found
this fascinating although technically-challenging for the layman. What stood
out, however, was the importance of some personal factors; the seeming
arrogance of Pollen, and the importance of not making enemies of your potential patrons (Fisher and Wilson especially). Dreyer of course was involved in the Pollen development, and was well-positioned to take advantage of Pollen's missteps in "running his campaign," if you will.
The course of events with the BCS at Jutland is layed out by Brooks
in careful chronological detail, and in due course he gets to that period
between 3:30 and 3:50 when the BCS and the 1SG are converging. Brooks goes back to Lord Chatfield's well-known statement about these
minutes, and why Beatty hesitated. What was in his mind?
Brooks doesn't declare definitively for one explanation, and there are
a few. The conventional one is that Lord Beatty was pre-occupied messaging Lord Jellicoe and lost track of events (would that he had been
as concerned with informing Jellicoe the rest of the day!). Now another-and this idea apparently coming from Sumida blew me away-
was that Beatty never "intended" to open up at ranges 18,000 yards or
above, because he bought into an Admiralty view that actually favored
closing to medium range, as they expected the Germans to do. Incredible if true, and the negation, essentially, of the gunnery revolution.
And then there are the technical, and this gets down to an indictment
of Beatty, with which I must say I agree, namely that, whichever system
had been adopted, Beatty was not the man to be in charge of it. Brooks
quotes Admiral Goodenough to the effect that, for all of his leadership
qualities (and "I" think these are debateable) technical mastery was not
one of them. Now Brooks indicates that , when the battle-cruisers finally
opened up they all overestimated the range, so that from "Lion" on-down
they may have thought they had more time than they actually did.
Now this comes back overall to Beatty; he was never committed, as
was Lord Jellicoe, to regular gunnery practice at-distance, as was carried
out at Scapa Flow. He guaranteed Jellicoe after the awful performance
at the Dogger Bank that next time it would be better, and it wasn't.
As Professor Lambert points out in his forward, for these range-finding
and fire-control instruments to be effective, be they those of Dreyer or
Pollen, the fleets had to be at their service in action. Beatty, whether Brooks says this openly or not, didn't fully understand this equipment
and didn't maneuvre his fleet to gain its benefits.
I do not write this on Beatty fan club stationery!
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tone
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Joined: 29 Oct 2004
Posts: 479
Location: Boston

PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2007 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't disagree with your views, bargami, especially not

Quote:
Incredible if true


I've seen a fair many close readers of history scratch their heads over Sumida's theses on the point of Royal Navy doctrine for engagement range. These hypothesized doctrines never visited the pages of the Grand Fleet Battle Orders in which Jellicoe's methods were minutely specified.

Part of Sumida's rationale for addressing this lack of proof is that it actually is to be expected in light of the sensitive nature of the plan; that is, the tactical initiative to fire at closer range as hypothesized could not be trusted on paper since their discovery by the Germans would thwart the ability of the British commander to choose the range he'd determined most advantageous to him. I think this method of reasoning is interesting for allowing conjecture and to permit one to ask challenging questions, but it is not one commonly accepted as the basis for authoritative historical works. But at the same time, it bears mention that Sumida has won some prestigious awards for some of these same essays.

In "A Matter of Timing", Prof. Sumida prefaces his work by a Sherlock Holmes quote to the effect of once all the impossible scenarios have been ruled out, the one remaining, no matter how unlikely, is the truth. If one reads the essay, one must have a specially receptive mind indeed to think that all possible scenarios are fairly considered in the analysis.

tone

PS: It would be easier to read your excellent points if you used carriage returns only for paragraph breaks.
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maxyang



Joined: 31 Oct 2004
Posts: 100
Location: Shanghai, China

PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2007 3:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I recently come across a site, www.campusi.com and it will search quite a lot of places for all kinds of books. The good thing is that it may find some books with relatively cheap price. For example, "British Battleships 1919-1939" is selling at 100USD in Japan now. There could be other nice bargains, as long as you can have the patience to periodically search for books before you buy. :)
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