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The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do Hardcover – January 4, 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Business journalist and New York Times editorial writer Porter delivers a popular explication of how supply and demand affect prices. In vignettes about all manner of transactions, from coffee sales to marriage dowries to home values, he disputes notions that prices settle out as rational correlations of supply and demand. All sorts of emotional factors are involved, which enliven Porter’s stories as he explores divergent behaviors of upper-, middle-, and lower-income consumers in what they will pay for something. If a purchase expresses the pursuit of happiness, Porter chases the idea that money yields joy, concluding it can, though temporarily. What about the price of power? Porter adduces the cost of votes in São Tomé v. the United States, as he does the worth of labor, love, and life itself, practically breaking them down into a schedule of prices. As a book in which nothing, not even religion, seems safe from the crass intrusion of pricing, Porter’s work ought to ring up the audience for Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics (2005). --Gilbert Taylor


"Porter's book is an enthralling look at the prices we put, consciously and unconsciously, on everything from a gallon of gas to a spare kidney. Everyone could learn something from this wise and clever book. I did."
-Tim Harford, Financial Times, author of The Undercover Economist

"Everything in the world comes with a price, but what does a price mean and how is it set? This riveting narrative is the best book on these very human and very important questions. There is an interesting nugget on virtually every page."
-Tyler Cowen, co-author of the Marginal Revolution blog

"A fascinating journey through what we see every day-but do not think about enough. Eduardo Porter makes you think hard about the corporate interests at work behind the veil of prices (and much more). Just because people are willing to pay does not mean that the price is right-in any sense of the word."
-Simon Johnson, co-author of 13 Bankers and professor of entrepreneurship, MIT Sloan School of Management

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

This Book Has a Unique Design Element
You may notice when you receive this book that the design of the cover includes "price stickers" with various price points. The actual price is in the usual spot on the inside front cover and in the EAN barcode, and the Amazon price is as you see it on the site.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591843626
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591843627
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #965,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am burning through every resource on pricing I can find. The author is a New York Times journalist - and I do so love to read books by journalists. They can write clearly, succinctly and well! This book is an incredible journey through business, anthropology and psychology. Some snippets.

* Market transactions do not necessarily provide people with what they want; they provide people with what they think they want. Consumers often have the most tenuous grasp of why they pay what they do for a given object of their desire. (This guy must drive economists crazy!)
* Value started as a moral inquiry, a manifestation of divine justice (back when the Church ran the World)
* The real world is plagued with search costs. It is difficult for consumers to to find out what a given product costs in all the shops in town- let alone everything available on the Internet. One of the best know market techniques is to make it difficult for customers to understand where they can get best value for their money
* People value more things they bought than what they receive as gifts
* Imposing a fine on tardy parents picking up their kids at daycare worsened tardiness. The fine made it affordable.
* Even if an investor were to correctly call a bubble, it would be expensive to bet against it
With enough investor enthusiasm, the bubble will stay inflated longer than the contrarian could remain solvent.
Keynes believed that most investors really do not know what they are doing. Sort of betting on the
average response to average events. Keynes made a lot of money in the market.
* Expect increased right wing politics as the economy worsens

The author covers off the price of slaves, women, children, global warming, religious affiliation, horse meat and more. It is an eclectic and marvelous journey. Great book for a trip.
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Format: Hardcover
Despite the readable and enjoyable prose style, the book took me a long time to get through. The problem was that every few pages I'd find myself pausing to think over what I'd just read. It is almost provokingly thought provoking. Entertaining, informative, challenging: the author covers an immense amount of ground without being superficial or predictable. Even when going over subjects that are familiar, for one reason or another, he makes the treatment interesting by applying a steady analysis to the topic. Instead of participating in inflammatory debates on controversial matters--immigration, marriage, speeding--he lets facts, well presented, illustrate the always fascinating operations of market valuations. He deftly shows how those valuations tell us about ourselves and the world.
The result is that you keep thinking about the book long after it is read. Whether he seemed to support or contradict my own point of view, he invariably presented a reasoned argument which was worth going through.
"The Price of Everything" is enormously rewarding and well worth rereading. I recommend the book unreservedly.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an amazing eye-opener that will make you think. Not only think but expose you to some realities about PRICE that could shift your perspective in powerful ways.

Before reading this book I thought of PRICE in more of a retail sort of way. The cost of an iPad, new shoes or a pair of pants.

While that's certainly one form of PRICE, Eduardo Porter has reminded me that it's actually so much more.

What about The Price of Happiness? The Price of Life? The Price of Work? The Price of Faith? The Price of Free? Or even The Price of the Future? (all chapter titles from the book).

PRICE is about choice, priorities, and the value or worth that we set. That value drives our decisions and shapes our lives in more ways than we might initially think. After all, everything has a PRICE doesn't it? From consumer goods to our time, every choice in where we'll invest our resources has to do with PRICE.

But PRICE isn't fixed. You and I might see PRICE in a totally different ways because the PRICE we're willing to pay is shaped by a variety of things. While I might be willing to pay $10 for a collectible card, you might think it's only worth $1. And while I might be willing to invest 4 hours of my week on Social Media, you might think that same use of time is worthless.

Everything we do, every choice we make boils down to PRICE.

I highly recommend this book. It's well worth the PRICE. :)
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Format: Hardcover
This thought-provoking, reader-friendly volume explores the economic
choices individuals and societies make every day, often without considering
the true cost and other implications of those decisions.
Eduardo Porter, a member of the New York Times editorial board, is both a
creative thinker and hugely entertaining writer, skilled at explaining complex
issues to numbers-phobic, non-economists like me.
I learned a lot about how the world really functions, and was
riveted from cover-to-cover.
I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Apparently, the author thinks that people chose to ignore newly introduced highway speed limit because they have made some cost/benefit analysis and figured out that improved economy from driving slower was not worth the X amount of minutes lost on the journey as a result of it. No evidence is presented, which is fine - I am not against speculations of this kind, if I feel that they are results of some research or study by an expert. I just feel that people mostly ignore speed limits because they like to drive fast and get there faster, and that this book is a collection of disjointed musings on a variety of subjects.
A good book would be akin to a guided tour of a museum done right, this one feels like I am left wondering on my own in a warehouse for overflow exhibits, mixed with an occasional trash item waiting to be taken out.
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