My question is similar to this - Rude to ask a book chapter. I have bought the first of two parts of a research monograph. The second part is even more expensive (around $150) and in my currency it is prohibitively expensive. I do not know the professor and he does not know me either. On the other hand it is possible we may collaborate in the future as we are in the same field. Is it appropriate to send him an email and ask him for a discount on his book? Would it harm a professional relationship later on in my career?

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    Authors usually don't and cannot sell directly their books, and the price is decided by the publisher. Authors typically receive a few courtesy copies of their books, but they have no access to other copies for free. Aug 27, 2016 at 10:27
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    An author can have their draft copy in electronic format, but might not even have the final version as published. My suggestion however is to borrow the book from your university library, and if your library doesn't have it they can probably loan it from another library. That's what libraries are for. Aug 27, 2016 at 10:36
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    @MassimoOrtolano Can you turn your comments into an answer please?
    – jakebeal
    Aug 27, 2016 at 11:27
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    It is also useful to know that many textbooks in scientific fields can be found in English language in so-called "international edition" that are actually editions sold in India, printed on cheap paper, usually B/W which cost a lot less than the "normal" edition. I know a website which I used a few times to buy them, however I don't know if I can provide a link here. Aug 27, 2016 at 15:56
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    Consider the size of the audience when deciding when to ask. For a research monograph that has perhaps a few hundred potential readers, this is a fairly reasonable request. For a mass-market textbook intended to sell millions of copies, it's not. Aug 27, 2016 at 18:14

4 Answers 4


Authors usually don't and cannot sell directly copies of their books, and the price is decided by the publisher.

Of course, an author has their draft copy in electronic format, but they might not even have the final electronic version as published. Authors typically receive a few courtesy copies of their books, but they have no access to other copies for free.

My suggestion however is to borrow the book from your university library: that's what library are for, after all.

If the library doesn't have a copy, depending on your position, you can:

  1. Suggest the library to buy a copy. Many university libraries buy books according to the suggestions of their faculties: if you cannot do this directly, probably your adviser can.
  2. Ask your library if they can loan it from another library. In many countries there is a system of interlibrary loans, and sometimes it works even across different countries.
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    Another alternative if you're struggling to find it in a library is to buy the book and then resell it on Amazon/Ebay when you're finished. If the book is popular enough you can often recoup a decent proportion of your cost.
    – JBentley
    Aug 27, 2016 at 16:24
  • And ANOTHER another alternative is "Rental"? Amazon Rent-Textbooks or similar...
    – WernerCD
    Aug 27, 2016 at 21:03
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    @JBentley: That's a big risk to take if you can't eat in the meantime, and/or if you can't then make a sale. Aug 27, 2016 at 22:02
  • In my school, you could not check out copies of most required texts: they were in such high demand you were only allowed to use them in the library. My solution was to buy the previous and/or international edition of the book for 1/10th the price online. I found that, for every one of my textbooks, the only major difference was the homework problems, which I could photocopy from the library's copy. Aug 27, 2016 at 22:16
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    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft: OP is asking about a monograph, which is a completely different animal from a textbook. For instance, it is rather unlikely to be borrowed from your university library (by someone you don't personally know, presuming the monograph is closely related to your area).
    – tomasz
    Aug 28, 2016 at 10:40

I don't think it is rude to ask for the preprint of the book. In fact, many authors publish the preprint for books on arxiv(I can give examples of this). However, the rudeness depends on the culture and has many dependencies. Finally, you can use Libgen for downloading/uploading books, and many authors put their book also here, although they would not admit it.

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    +1 For Libgen, great resource for obtaining books and articles.
    – Gabriel
    Aug 28, 2016 at 2:20
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    Is Libgen legal? I thought it was in the same category as other piracy sites.
    – mweiss
    Aug 29, 2016 at 0:00
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    No, it is a normal pirating site, and as such not legal to use (in Germany at least).
    – Juri Robl
    Aug 30, 2016 at 10:20

I was in same situation and found that the author was on research gate. I message him about my financial constraints and politely asked for favor to which he replied with the copy of whole book.

I think you can also ask him, as they are well aware of student problems and might help you out. In case of refusal thank him and understand his position.

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    It's not rude to ask - but please also understand it's not necessarily rudeness by the prof if he declines to provide. Aug 27, 2016 at 17:39

As Massimo Ortolano said, authors don't directly decide the prices on their books. The publisher does, and authors have no direct control over that price (it's possible an author can negotiate the price before signing the contract, however).

That said, you can ask the professor anyway to help you acquire a (relatively) cheap copy of the book. Here're some ways he can do it:

  • He could give you an earlier version. Depending on how much earlier it is, the text could be largely the same. The danger of this is that, the preprint probably won't be in printed form, and if he gives you an electronic copy then he could also damage sales of his book. Specifically asking for this could put him in a difficult spot.
  • He could have some free copies left behind. Book contracts I've seen typically say the publisher will provide the author some complimentary copies of the book after it's been published. These could range from a few (~5) to a lot (~20). It's possible the professor has some left over.
  • There's also a good chance that the professor will have donated some of his complimentary copies to your university's library, or your university's library will already have purchased some copies of the book (it's written by one of their academics; naturally they will buy). You can check with them.
  • Finally, the professor could purchase some copies of it for cheap. Again, book contracts I've seen typically say that if you author a book for the publisher, you get to purchase both further copies of your own book as well as other books in the publisher's collection for a substantial discount (~30%).
  • Some professors will give you back the royalty they earn on the book in exchange for a receipt for its legal purchase. But on a $80 textbook it is only likely to be $5. Authors earn much less than you might think.
    – Buffy
    Mar 8, 2019 at 23:44

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