Vernon Smith’s self-published memoir

By Felix Salmon
June 2, 2009

Vernon Smith is a true giant in the world of economics, and his memoir has now received a rave review from Tyler Cowen (who admittedly might be biased, given that Smith is a fellow at Cowen’s Mercatus Center). So the obvious question about the book is this: why was this wide-ranging memoir from a Nobel laureate self-published?

There are lots of possible reasons: Maybe Smith just can’t be bothered to deal with agents and editors and publishers. Maybe he didn’t want to share the profits. Maybe the book is so idiosyncratic that no publisher had any interest in publishing it. Or maybe, contra Cowen, it just isn’t very good. I must say that I do now want to find out — and the fact that Smith will personally get a significant part of the amount I pay for the book does make me more likely to buy it.

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Help me understand why you wouldn’t want to give this book a chance because the profit excuse is worthless when you can easily rent or borrow.

Personally, I can’t wait to read it, and I’m struggling to understand your point of view.