Because I’m an obsessive madman, I love books like this, and, determined (however briefly) to forget some recent vows of austerity, set out to buy my very own copy.
But then I saw the price. Good grief.
I’m not unaware of the usual explanations given for this sort of pricing, i.e. that books like this are meant for institutional libraries, not for eccentrics like me. (We see libraries nowadays as being roughly as relevant as horseshoes—and fund them accordingly. Why publishers should think themselves justified in gouging institutions in such an atmosphere deserves a full essay in itself.)
As someone who grew up in the Orthodox Jewish world, I have many fond memories involving books published by Artscroll--the publisher of Orthodox liturgy, law and exegesis.
Although I haven’t any inside information on their business model, I do know that: (a) Their books are printed and bound to withstand intensive use; (b) Their books contain a great deal of original scholarship, all of which is performed by folks who expect to be paid; (c) Their graphic design is not of the sort you can expect from cheap freelancers; and (d) Their sales are minuscule, all told.
And despite it all, there’s scarcely a single book in their catalogue that’s beyond the reach of a schmo like me. How can this be?
I’d be eager for Oxford University Press to find out.