May 2, 2008

The last of the Chek Jawa Guidebook

This is the last box of Chek Jawa Guidebooks that was in the warehouse:
Here's more about the Guidebook, with sample pages.

That's it, no more.

Except for whatever is already out with the bookstores (mainly Kinokuniya and Nature's Niche).

It's taken five years to sell off about 4,000 copies (there were a lot of spoilt copies).

Will there be a reprint? I'm afraid not.

Why? Because it's darn expensive to print a book, and takes a lot of effort and time to write one.

Writing books don't make you rich. In fact, it costs you.

Here's why:
60% of retail price goes to distributor, of which 40% goes to bookshop
10-20% goes to publisher (depending on how nice your publisher is)
The remainder goes to cover costs as well as spoilt copies.

(Is there another way to do this? No, it's silly to avoid using a distributor. Bookshops will only buy from distributors and not all distributors at that. And bookshops are not very sympathetic towards local publications. You can see that the guidebook is not carried by all major bookstores. If the distributor and bookshop cannot make money, they won't take your book. There are costs involved in keeping stocks for years, costs which are taken out of the retail price. To print less raises the printing cost per copy. So, realistically, this is the deal that all local authors have to face.)

At $18 per copy, the Chek Jawa Guidebook barely covered costs.

And costs were low because everyone contributed services free: photos, identification, scientific writing and proof-reading, layout; or paid out of their own pocket for cost of trips and costs of pre-production layouts. The tiny bit of 'profit' was contributed to the NParks Garden City Fund for supporting efforts on Chek Jawa.

Despite the low cost, the guidebook took a long time to sell out.

I am thinking of recasting all the info in the Chek Jawa Guidebook for a new guidebook to cover all shores including our reefs. Mainly so as not to waste the very good effort put in by the more than 40 contributors to the Guidebook. Also, because we now have a better understanding of the rest of our shores.

But I remember still, how much effort and time it took to do the Guidebook. Not to mention the capital cost. It will take at least 6 months to write, and lots of money to print. And am rather apprehensive about it.

What do you think? Should I make the effort to write an all-shores guidebook?


Ivan said...

That's it! I'm grabbing a copy at Nature's Niche tomorrow!

With regards to whether a new guidebook is necessary, I'm really not sure. Especially looking at how quickly information can become obsolete and outdated even before the book hits the shelves. IMHO, online databases are probably the way to go. But then at the same time, one cannot deny the value of a guidebook when one is out in the field. Oh well.

Maybe a team of 'experts' to share the burden would be best if a new guidebook is produced.

Anonymous said...

yes, an all shores book would be just GREAT! Bump up the price!

peizee said...

Looking at how damn useful the chek jawa guidebook was, it'd be a pity if there wasn't a reprint/ another new guidebook for new guides/public outreach.. online info is gd but hardcopied info has its own value too! For eg. it'd be really treasured by readers who are not as wired.

SJ said...

The CJ guidebook has always been very popular. There have been visitors at RMBR asking whether do we carry them. Apparently the stock runs out quickly at some bookshops. So it will be great if we have another follow up. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about this. It's such a shame. We have just come from overseas for a few months and will be visiting Chek Jawa soon. We were told that this is the best guidebook. I have been searching for a copy for some time and still have yet to find it. It would have been nice to have the field guide to show our friends back home. It looks like such a beautiful book to remember one of the last few natural bastions of Singapore by.

Ria Tan said...

Thanks for the encouraging comments. Glad the book was appreciated.

But I really don't have the resources to reprint. Am working on a new guidebook for all the shores. It's going to take a while.

I'm really sorry to disappoint those who love Chek Jawa.