June 2009
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Ed Miller is the new Ticketmaster

I wasn’t aware of this until I just noticed this blog post announcing today is the last day for pre-orders of a new poker book by Ed Miller called “Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em”.

Immediately all the right ingredients seem to be there for this to be a great title.  There’s no doubt that Miller is an excellent writer and seeing his name on a book makes me pay attention.

In particular, “Small Stakes Hold’em” is the definitive text on loose fixed-limit poker games and his contribution to “No Limit Hold’em Theory and Practice”, co-authored with David Sklansky, is no doubt the reason that this is the only Sklansky book that I’ve read that didn’t feel like a chore.

So with all this potential, I clicked through to learn more.

It turns out this title is a self-published e-book.

I’m familiar with the format.  Usually it’s used to distribute manuals that tell you how to make a fortune buying televisions on eBay for a couple of quid, or how to earn thousands of dollars every week for filling in surveys.  The same way the author does, who generously chooses to share his secret with anyone who has a credit card.

Personally I love the irony of the ones that tell you how to make a career out of selling ebooks.

Miller explains this unusual decision by saying: “E-books are the new wave in poker training”.

I was not aware of this.  However a quick Google search did throw up such gems as an online poker “algorithm tracker” that can have a decent guess at what’s going to be dealt next, or an unashamed “cheating system” which claims to show you other players’ hole cards.  Both these notions, of course, are preposterous.

So if this product is genuine – and I highly doubt that self-proclaimed Noted Poker Authority Ed Miller would put his name to a scam – what’s so good about making it an e-book?

Does having to read it on-screen on your computer, rather than at your convenience on a train, in bed or on the toilet make the material somehow superior?

I guess you could read it while playing online poker without having to move your head to look between the screen and a book. That’s marginally +eCalories, but those small edges do all add up.

Here’s the kicker though.  The book’s tag line is “The affordable poker book”.

Because all those $20-$30 books out there are just a pipedream for anyone who doesn’t already play for nosebleed stakes. 

So how much is this one?  It’s $39.95.

If you pre-order today.

If you wait until tomorrow, the price will be $99.95.

As I’ve been told that my potty mouth often causes this blog to get blocked when people are reading it at work, I won’t repeat my first reaction – but you can take a pretty good guess.

It really does say $99.95.  As if $39.95 wasn’t already taking the wee wee for a book that you have to print yourself if you want to read it on the tube.

Miller’s prevous books, published by Two Plus Two with all the overheads that come with producing and distributing products made out of dead trees, are priced between $24.95 and $29.95.  Even the cash cow Harrington on Cash Games only weighs in at $69.90 for both halves of the book.

The Internet has been responsible for helping to drive down the cost of all kinds of stuff.  If you can sell it online, it’s cheaper than having a shop.  If you can distribute it electronically, it’s cheaper than sticking it in the mail.  As a result, those savings are usually passed on to consumers.  There are very few exceptions.

I have issues with the price of music at iTunes compared to the cost of CDs, but at least it’s no more expensive and you’re not committed to buying a full album if you only want a few songs.  It’s really only Ticketmaster that has such flagrant disrespect for its customers that it charges you a “convenience fee” when they have a monopoly on an event, and then charges you again for the privilege of printing your own tickets.

(Obligatory Ticketbastard rant: I just bought two $15 tickets for The Donnas in Las Vegas next month – yes, really, they rock and you know they do – and the total was $48.50.  That’s more than the cost of an extra ticket in fees!).

And then there’s this book.

Miller also doesn’t mention whether Two Plus Two wanted to publish this book.  Surely if they did but he’d made the decision to do it independently, this in itself would be a great testamonial to the quality of the work.  When you’ve had 150,000 units shipped through this channel in the past, it’s a big leap of faith to go it alone.

If they didn’t want it, why not?  And what – apart from the fact that you’ll only have to sell a few dozen copies to make the same amount of money as you would from the royalties from thousands of printed books – makes it worth nearly a hundred dollars?

Unfortunately, I can’t feel anything other than cynicism towards this book’s launch and, regrettably, I will be looking for a free copy on thepokerbay tomorrow.

If I can find it, I’ll send Ed Miller $20 and a link to this post.

EDIT: Publisher Mason Malmuth comments on the price compared what it would have been through 2+2 here: