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Five Editions of House of Flame and Shadow is Unbridled Capitalism

Bloomsbury Publishing unethically targets the pockets of readers

Sarah J. Maas’ newest book House of Flame and Shadow, the third in her  Crescent City book series, is set to release on January 30. With sales totaling 38 million and her books being translated in 38 different languages, Maas is arguably one of the  most popular authors in the world right now. The excitement for the latest Maas release is akin to the hype that surrounded J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Having previously only written young adult  fantasy, Crescent City, which is targeted at adults, saw Maas turn a new leaf in her literary career. 

You may be asking yourself, what is so objectionable about Sarah J. Maas releasing a new book? The issue lies not with the book itself, but with  how her publishing company, Bloomsbury Publishing, is handling its  release. Instead of publishing one edition of the book, Bloomsbury will be releasing five different editions on January 30. Each edition will be unique to a specific retailer – Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Target, Walmart, and select indie bookstores will each receive a different edition of the book each featuring unique bonus chapters. Basically, every edition has a unique chapter related to a handful of characters in the book. If you want to experience the book in its entirety, you will have to buy it five times. 

If readers want to experience the whole gamut of the Crescent City universe, why are they being forced to jump through hoops to do so? These bonus chapters  easily could have been compiled  into a novella that would have retailed at a much lower cost than a main entry in the series. Instead, Bloomsbury has decided to set the retail price of House of Flame and Shadow at a whopping 42$ CAD. If you want to read all of the bonus chapters, you will have to fork over 200$. 

The frustrating reality of  this stunt by Bloomsbury is that they are clearly aiming to capitalize   on the loyalty of Sarah J Maas’ literary fanbase. The publishing house is aware that her loyal readers are passionate and   willing to go above and beyond to support their favourite author. Publishers used to release signed editions of books in limited quantities to appeal to loyal readers. But it seems that they have now found a new way to exploit consumers. 

The success of  Bloomsbury’s stunt ultimately lies in the hands of book buyers. If their response to these exclusive editions is muted, it could leave some stores with dead stock, and discourage other companies from following this model. However,  if it turns out to be wildly successful, this marketing ploy might set a dangerous precedent for the publishing industry.  It could even attract scalpers who will buy the book en masse and sell it at inflated prices – a process covered in the Daily article “It’s Not You, It’s Capitalism.” Regardless, it is guaranteed to anger fans, some of whom might opt out of buying the book altogether. 

It remains to be seen whether or not these additional chapters will have any bearing on the release of the fourth book in the series. Nevertheless, the release of all of these special editions is worrisome. Has this practice set an industry standard where  selling multiple exclusive editions of one book is the norm? Will people be required to buy the same book multiple times to be able to enjoy the full story? If you want to incentivize people to buy print books to compensate for the general decline in book sales in recent years, this is the wrong way of going about it. 

Bloomsbury’s actions might lead you to believe  that they are experiencing financial troubles,  but this is far from the truth.  The first half of the 2023 fiscal year was actually the most successful in the company’s history. In fact,  Bloomsbury’s  revenue increased by 17% in 2023, with  a 79% increase in sales of Sarah J Maas’ books being cited as one of the driving forces behind the company’s success. This marketing stunt has nothing to do with helping Bloomsbury stay afloat; it is just another example of unbridled capitalism. 

No matter how much profit a company makes they always seem to find a way to cut corners to increase earnings. In the headlong pursuit of perpetually increasing profits, companies are willing to cast aside their standards and morals – just as Bloomsbury has done here. The average Maas reader just wants to read the full book without all these shenanigans. In a day and age where  people consistently bemoan that  young people  don’t read as much as past generations, why is a  major publishing house setting up obstacles to prevent readers from fully enjoying such a popular series?  Instead of price gouging their readers, Bloomsbury should be prioritizing efforts to widen access to books for the average person.  A well-read population should never depend on how many editions of a book they can afford to buy.