Not many people fully realize the great service the Mises bookstore provides the Austrian enthusiast. I mean, almost everyone will tell you that the Mises Institute sells great books at a great price, but fewer people than should be the case really understand the implications of this fact. The immense benefit of having the Mises Institute becomes clearer once you become aware of just how much literature in the Austrian tradition actually exists. It becomes even clearer when you appreciate just how expensive much of this literature is.
Routledge provides an excellent example of what I am talking about. The hardcover version of Steven Horwitz’ Microfoundations and Macroeconomics (which, by the way, is a spectacular book) goes for $142, while the paperback is valued at $33. Kevin Dowd’s Laissez Faire Banking is priced at $180 and $66 for hardcover and paperback, respectively. In Routledge’s defense, their books are becoming cheaper and cheaper, but generally not cheap enough to be truly affordable to the younger generation of up and coming Austrian scholars.
Check out these biographical collection of essays on Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, published by Edward Elgar Publishing; $409 and $776, respectively! They are both huge books, but completely unaffordable. I figure they are no longer in print, but my point still stands.
All these publishing companies are interested in staying in business. If they could lower their prices, I am sure they would. The books they publish simply are not in “high demand” and they are printed in relatively small batches. So, I am definitely not attacking these publishes in any sense. I understand where they are coming from and the pressures which exist to maintain their relatively high prices.
My point, rather, is to highlight the great service the Mises Institute presents by providing similar books for much, much cheaper prices. The Mises Institute’s business model is different. The Institute relies mostly on donations. The purpose of the bookstore is obviously not to score large profits, because if it was it would be failed business model. The bookstore is there to provide good literature at a cheap price, and hopefully break even on each investment or make a small income. The bookstore is there thanks to the great people who donate to the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Where else could you expect to buy a hardcover edition of Mises’ Human Action for $20 (half off what it was originally priced at, by the way), and a paperback edition for $10. Murray Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty, one time valued at over $100, can now be purchased for a measly $25. William H. Hutt’s great Theory of Idle Resources (one of Hutt’s three books which makes up some of the greatest ‘Austrian’ macroeconomic work between the end of the Second World War and the Austrian revival) is selling at only $9. The list goes on. The bookstore is constantly looking for ways to cut production costs, as well. Not to increase their profit margins, but rather to lower their prices.
The Mises bookstore provides the young student and aspiring scholar a great opportunity, by providing the work of great thinkers at very low costs. I personally have come to fully realize what this mean after about two or three years of suffering as an Austrian-oriented bibliophile. In fact, I am not sure I would have ever been so interested in Austrian economics had it not been for the Institute. My first two Austrian books were Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson and Jesús Huerta de Soto’s Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles (which I bought, I think, because of a fluke or a very short sale, where the price fell from ~$40 to $35 [it’s back down to $35 now]). It was de Soto’s book which introduced me to Austrian capital theory and which sparked my interest in exploring the subject of price coordination. Since then, I have become more and more interested in more obscure Austrian titles, which oftentimes forces me to buy these books at higher prices (when I can afford them), but the Mises Institute is still there providing great literature at ridiculously low prices (the perfect example is Hutt’s Idle Resources; you will not find that book of such quality, for that price, anywhere else).
One last example is constituted by a soon to be published Mises edition of Robert Higgs’ The Transformation of the American Economy. I purchased this book maybe about a year ago, when I became aware of it through an article published by Mises Daily (I have always been a great fan of Higgs; I attended Cato University 2009 in most part just to attend his lecture). I no longer remember what I bought it for, although I am sure I can look it up if I really wanted to. It probably was not expensive; I bought it used. Higgs’ book is, hands down, the best book on the subject of the American economy between 1865 and 1914. In regards to monetary history, it is not as detailed as Friedman and Schwartz’ Monetary History of the United States, but it is much broader and covers more aspects of the American economy. It is, without question, a book anybody interested in the era should have. Unfortunately, it became out of print with the prior publisher (Wiley) and circulation narrowed.
A few weeks ago, I submitted a review of the book to Jeffrey Tucker. After coming into contact with Robert Higgs and the publisher, Mr. Tucker made me aware that the Mises Institute was on its way to publishing a new edition (with a new introduction by Higgs). This encapsulates what the Mises bookstore provides us. It has taken a book which may have had the misfortune of obscurity and will soon republish it, putting it back into circulation. Whereas today few people are aware of its existence and even fewer are able to purchase it, pretty soon the book will be available for mass consumption. To a bibliophile and a Higgs fan such as myself, this is a market miracle.
Out of any other book publisher, the Mises Institute, I think, is doing the most work in fomenting the next generation of Austrian scholars. I hope that more people can begin to appreciate the full scope of its implications. I further hope that — and I am confident they will — the Mises Institute bookstore can continue to provide these books at such affordable prices. For those who are willing and able, I think the bookstore is a great cause to contribute to with a donation. While not all of the bookstore’s clients are aware of the importance of the Mises Institute’s donors, these donors are the pillars on which the modern, popular Austrian movement is based on. A thanks to the Institute’s staff, the bookstore, and its financial benefactors is in order.