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All the books printed in china, why so expensive?

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Since all the books produced by chaosium are printed in china, why are they so expensive? Why not print them in the USA where it might be cheaper. I look at my old books from the 80's and sigh a little on how I miss seeing Made in the USA.

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44 minutes ago, sgtscott658 said:

Hi-

Since all the books produced by chaosium are printed in china, why are they so expensive? Why not print them in the USA where it might be cheaper. I look at my old books from the 80's and sigh a little on how I miss seeing Made in the USA.

Companies will probably have to begin to move away from China as a supplier, or at least diversify their supply chain, due to a combination of the current virus crisis and also U.S. trade policy. 

Coronavirus Could Be The End Of China As Global Manufacturing Hub

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As far as I know, Chaosium also has a printer in Lithuania, for recent Cthulhu books and next RQG The Smoking Ruin & Other Stories for example.

Anyway, China or not, to have a lot of color art in the books cost a lot (to pay drawers), most of all given the low volume, as well as storing the books for years...

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On 3/2/2020 at 12:37 PM, sgtscott658 said:

Hi-

Since all the books produced by chaosium are printed in china, why are they so expensive? Why not print them in the USA where it might be cheaper. I look at my old books from the 80's and sigh a little on how I miss seeing Made in the USA.

We've had previous similar discussions, particularly after Chinese officials confiscated and destroyed all copies of a third-party supplement because they objected to something in its content.  (Or maybe they were just 5e fans.). It is insane for any business in what used to be the Free World to place its fate and profitability in the cruel claws of a ruthless, hostile foreign dictatorship.  It isn't cost-effective if they can shut you down on a whim.  And breaking into the Chinese market isn't worth it since officials not only attempt to censor your IP but have demonstrated a tendency to steal it outright.

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A book in the mid-80s cost between $10 and $20, with the upper values of this range for boxed sets. When you account for inflation, that's between $25 and $50. The new books are still in this range, with hardcovers replacing boxes (which is for the better IMHO... boxes age horribly). So I'm not sure there's any evidence that modern books cost more than they used to (the only new thing is that there's now a market for premium books, i.e. ~$100 books/sets, which didn't exist until recently).

But even if my info is wrong, arguably, the newer CoC 7e books are superior in quality compared to the old books: most of them are in hardcover, with better binding, better page quality, and better art (as in: colour art).

Finally, the price of a book isn't just based on the price of printing.  It's also based on how much the publisher wants to pay the writers and illustrators.  I'm fine having slightly more expensive books if it means better paid creators, especially in a market where RPG publishers have trouble staying afloat, and people go for the slightly more lucrative board game market.

So not relying on China? Sure, yes, totally. But I don't think the books are too expensive, and I don't think moving countries for printing will have much of an effect on price.

Edited by lordabdul
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We've had this discussion before, too.  Much as I appreciate durable hardcovers and gorgeous all-color art, "better quality" doesn't help me if I can't afford the product.  Better a softcover with sparse black-and-white line art held together with staples that I can actually purchase, play, and learn to love.  Melee/Wizard, Champions, Classic Traveller, Toon -- all the games that established me in the hobby were that way.  I upgraded to fancier editions only after becoming an established player and GM.  If I'd had to begin with $40+ manuals instead of $6-20 microgames I would have taken up skateboarding or something instead.

By the way, all of my "low-quality" '80s games are intact and in good condition, just in case you wanted to get together and play sometme.  😉

Edited by seneschal

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Well like I said, I don't think, when you account for inflation, that the new books are any more expensive than the old... so if you could afford them back then but not now anymore, that's more a problem of with, say, the erosion of the middle class in whatever country you live in.  And sure, I understand, if you feel it's too expensive, that sucks. But I don't know if Chaosium will do anything about it... they have to compete with other high-quality books from the other publishers.

My 80s games don't fare so well. The worse, however, are the French versions of CoC books, which had probably the most terrible binding of all my RPG books. Some of them are little more than a bundle of loose pages now.

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5 hours ago, seneschal said:

It is insane for any business in what used to be the Free World to place its fate and profitability in the cruel claws of a ruthless, hostile foreign dictatorship.

I don't normally get into "politics" on forums but this strikes (literally) close to home. I am able to relocate from Hong Kong in the face of exploding repression and I will do so this year, but most of my students cannot. There is a vibrant local resistance to buying from mainland China, and supporting local "yellow" (pro-democracy) businesses instead. It saddens me to see producers in democratic countries supporting the CCP.

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Chaosium currently prints its books in the USA, China, and Lithuania. Where we print depends on several factors including cost, quality, format, and timeliness. For example, we print our B&W softcovers in the USA and Lithuania. We print our color hardcovers in China and Lithuania, and occasionally in the USA. 

Setting aside the hyperbolic mentions of sanity, cruel claws, and such, this isn't something we do on a whim. I spend a good portion of my "day job" at Chaosium trying to best source our print projects. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Most of the books we sell are sold to distributors that pay us 40% of the cover price. That means we get $20 for a $50 book, and we have to pay to ship it to the distributor.

2. Out of that $20 we have to pay the authors, artists, editors, layout people, etc. along with paying for the printing. Each $1 of extra cost means a big bite out of our profit.

3. To remain competitive with the major game publishers we have to look good on the shelf next to their full color hardcovers. Otherwise game shops are less likely to stock our books, except for special orders and pre-orders, which are only a small small portion of their (and our) sales.

4. I'm not sure what time frame you are referring to, but a $15 book in 1980 would cost $47 in 2020, when adjusted for inflation. Most RPG books in 1980 were in B&W. In 1993 the CoC core rulebook was $30.00. That's $53.56 in today's dollars, which is very close to what we charge today ($54.95).

5. Wages for many people have not kept up with the rate of inflation, and that just sucks. People have less buying power than they did 20 or 30 years ago.

Edited by Rick Meints
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22 hours ago, Rick Meints said:

I spend a good portion of my "day job" at Chaosium trying to best source our print projects.

Thank you for the insight. 

I always wondered about how much of an offset the "savings" of not shipping from overseas and not paying tariffs.

The KS Sassoon Files had their books destroyed in Chine due to content and they reprinted with an outfit in Illinois.  From what I understand they got a full refund. The books looked great, and I always wondered how bad a hit that was after recalculating for less shipping and not tariffs/customs fees.

My previous job was at a local manufacturing plant and we had begun sourcing some materials in the US vice China/Asia because end cost made US parts equal cost or cheaper.  With some US based printing companies expanding capacity, I wonder when their costs will be low enough that the end cost will make US production "cheaper".

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On 3/3/2020 at 10:23 PM, seneschal said:

We've had this discussion before, too.  Much as I appreciate durable hardcovers and gorgeous all-color art, "better quality" doesn't help me if I can't afford the product.  

The demographics have changed. Back in the 80's and 90's the market were mostly school and college age kids. We kept gaming. The new wave of gamers coming in behind us are 20-30 something types who learned from us old hands. Expectations have changed. There was an attempt to keep things cheap and cheerful with those gods awful (IMHO) paperback style books for HQ. RQG, CoC etc have outsold them in gorgeous hard back volumes many times over.

The market doesnt want cheap and cheerful it wants lush, well illustrated game books that are high quality.  Instead of buying massively expensive coffee table books to decorate our living rooms we buy game books and have our old gaming mates over to sit round the table with products we'd have killed for in the 80's. 

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The problem with the price of game books starts to manifest when you collect too much games... But this is valid for everything, not only books :D

IMO, role playing games are the cheapest hobby. You can have entertainment for years - just with the core book(s). Many people I know buy only those, because the prices are high and they want more diversity in their collection.

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11 minutes ago, Valyar said:

IMO, role playing games are the cheapest hobby. You can have entertainment for years - just with the core book(s).

I've had a pretty serious collecting habit. Recently I admitted to myself I wasn't going to use a lot of it and sold off all but what I wanted to use or really loved (So I sold duplicates, in part because there are new editions of Traveller and RQ so I dont need multiple copies of the old editions). At cover value (and I bought all but a handful of books at cover price) I had spend a few thousand over the years. Just selling dupes got me a sizeable fraction of that back. That pales in comparison to what many Brits spend on the annual holiday. It really is a cheap hobby. 

Space is my biggest issue because much as I love PDF's I still want hard copy of the core. And the new Chaosium stuff is really really pretty. 

Edited by Thaz
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6 minutes ago, Thaz said:

Space is my biggest issue because much as I love PDF's I still want hard copy of the core. And the new Chaosium stuff is really really pretty. 

We are on the same boat :) But I managed to put my desire to collect the whole line under control... for now. I have full bookcase now with more than 150 books and I am not focused on collecting all Modiphius and Fria Ligan stuffs for the games I play and love. I decided that I will not buy things for games I will not run.

And let's admit it - hobbies are money sinks, no way to get those dollars back.  :D

Edited by Valyar

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I must admit I have a bookcase AND a large drawer under the bed full.

However a few years ago I had that PLUS a bookcase or two at my parents house (where I havent lived in decades). I've rationalised. Mostly by selling duplicates and forked systems I didnt like (Keeping only classic Traveller, 1st Ed AD&D for the memories, Hackmaster, Blue Planet, RQ3 and CoC) kept it manageable and actually paid for RQG and some of my bills 😄 

 

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5 hours ago, Thaz said:

The demographics have changed. Back in the 80's and 90's the market were mostly school and college age kids. We kept gaming. The new wave of gamers coming in behind us are 20-30 something types who learned from us old hands. Expectations have changed. There was an attempt to keep things cheap and cheerful with those gods awful (IMHO) paperback style books for HQ. RQG, CoC etc have outsold them in gorgeous hard back volumes many times over.

The market doesnt want cheap and cheerful it wants lush, well illustrated game books that are high quality.  Instead of buying massively expensive coffee table books to decorate our living rooms we buy game books and have our old gaming mates over to sit round the table with products we'd have killed for in the 80's. 

Darth Vader:  Search your feelings.  You know that $150 coffee table books are the future of gaming.

Luke Skywalker:  [Clutching $4, essentially hand-written, copy of Tunnels and Trolls 4th edition]  Noooooooo!

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1 minute ago, seneschal said:

Darth Vader:  Search your feelings.  You know that $150 coffee table books are the future of gaming.

Luke Skywalker:  [Clutching $4, essentially hand-written, copy of Tunnels and Trolls 4th edition]  Noooooooo!

You can always buy the PDF's and print them out on a Dot Matrix printer and stick them in a ring binder if ya want to go old school 😄    (or buy the RQ2 reprint and print that) 

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My concerns about Chinese printing have nothing to do with product cost but about freedom of expression.  The Chinese government is perfectly happy to tell Western businesses dependent on their manufacturing what to do.  We've seen it with Google, major movie studios, the National Basketball Association, and one of Chaosium's licensees.  You want Chinese services and money you gotta play it their way, even to the point of self-censorship.  Being concerned about that isn't "getting political."  It is a Cover Your Asterisk issue.  You don't want to be beholden to someone who can shut you down on a whim while you eat the time, effort and expense of creating your product.

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2 hours ago, seneschal said:

Being concerned about that isn't "getting political." 

Okay, but I'm pretty sure "the cruel claws of a ruthless, hostile foreign dictatorship" leans heavily into political territory.  So, shine on.

!i!

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7 hours ago, Thaz said:

Space is my biggest issue because much as I love PDF's I still want hard copy of the core. And the new Chaosium stuff is really really pretty.

Same here, space (real estate) is expensive, and PDFs are awesome (especially when you invest in a 13" iPad Pro to get the proper screen size!). As you said, though, we're only going to play a fraction of all that, so really I want the hard copy only for that small fraction -- if I'm not going to run a game, I don't need the physical book, except maybe to show it off on the coffee table because it's very pretty. The Chaosium stuff I know I'll run eventually.

3 hours ago, Thaz said:

You can always buy the PDF's and print them out on a Dot Matrix printer and stick them in a ring binder if ya want to go old school

Although I never played Harn, nor do I particularly like it besides all its awesome maps, I always found that it was so delightfully nerdy: its books (at least the old school ones) were sold as bundles of perforated pages that you could organize in binders as you saw fit.

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I must say Harn is the one world system I never really delved into. 

 

Playing ad&d and reading wd and imagine back in the 80s I really envied the deep world building of RQ Glorantha , Harn and Traveller.  Irillian kind of scratched the itch but in the end I got to Glorantha. 

Oh Jorune was another..... 

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On 3/5/2020 at 4:23 AM, Thaz said:

I must admit I have a bookcase AND a large drawer under the bed full.

However a few years ago I had that PLUS a bookcase or two at my parents house (where I havent lived in decades). I've rationalised. Mostly by selling duplicates and forked systems I didnt like (Keeping only classic Traveller, 1st Ed AD&D for the memories, Hackmaster, Blue Planet, RQ3 and CoC) kept it manageable and actually paid for RQG and some of my bills 😄 

Most people know I have dabbled in collecting Chaosium games...IMG_8542.thumb.JPG.41ca300a10226ab1fa4fb09acbe637dd.JPG

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