Musings on Photography

Asuka Books

Posted in books, business by Paul Butzi on May 9, 2008


Asuka Books just annoyed the bejeebers out of me.

I hate businesses which have web sites, and the web sites do a pretty good job of telling me about their wares, but don’t spill all the beans, and then, when I have concluded that perhaps I’m interested in their product and want to know the price, they tell me “Hey, bub. We’ll tell you the price, but first you have to tell us a whole lot of stuff about yourself. Tell us where you live, and what your phone number is, and what you want to do, and how much experience you have, and how old you are. And then MAYBE we’ll tell you how much our products cost.”

I hate that. I hate it to pieces. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

And Asuka Books does exactly that. To get at their God Damn Price List, you have to spend four minutes filling out their God Damn Application Form, and you have to prove that you’re sufficiently hoity-toity professional to do business with them, because They Refuse To Do Business With Consumers.

And they want to know your phone number, and your fax number, and an email address, and your web address, and a shipping address, and a billing address, and they insist that you verify your eligibility to do business with them.

And then, after I do all that crap (remember that I am just trying to get a peek at their God Damn Price List, here) they send me an email, saying that they’ll get around to turning on my account AFTER they’ve reviewed all the stuff I’ve told them, etc. etc. etc. And that they’ll send me an email approving my registration within two business days, which (because today is a Friday) presumably means that I’ll hear from them in the middle of next week.

I hate that. I hate it so much that when I discovered that I’d given all this information to Asuka Books, and they STILL weren’t going to let me see their damn price list for another four days, I made a very rude suggestion about what they might do to themselves, said suggestion involving a four meter length of rope, a garden rake, a battery powered electric drill, a one inch spade bit, a twelve volt car battery, two liters of saline solution, and a roll of duct tape. Oh, and a pint of honey and fifteen rabid rats. Because I really hate it when I give people all this information about me, and then they refuse to come across with their damn price list.

So here’s my reply to Asuka Book, in advance of their two business day process. Don’t bother. If you can’t see your way clear to telling me how much your damn products cost in less than four days, even after I drop my shorts and reveal everything about myself, even after I spend five minutes screwing around with your form, then I am pretty sure that you’re such a bunch of ignorant incompetents that I will never want to do business with you.

Asuka Books are free to run their business however they please. They can, if they want, refuse to do business with anyone who’s not a ‘professional’. They can, if they want, refuse to tell people how much their products cost until the potential customer fills out an application.

And I can do something I’ve never done before, which is to recommend that everyone just refuse to do business with Asuka Books, even though I don’t yet know how much their products cost, what the quality of their products might be like, and I’ve never done business with them.

Because why do business with someone who is intent on telling you they don’t want to make it easy for you? Life is just too damn short to put up with crap like that. If my life expectancy were five million years, it would STILL be too short do put up with crap like that.

And on second thought, make that 18 rabid rats.

19 Responses

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  1. Greg said, on May 9, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Paul, tell us how you really feel. 🙂

    The reason Asuka does that is that they primarily market to wedding and portrait photographers. All the hoops are to keep clients (brides, etc) from being able to find out how much we’re marking up their books.

    It may be frustrating for you, but it’s a very good thing for us.

  2. Gordon McGregor said, on May 9, 2008 at 9:16 am

    I agree with Greg. They hide it because the wedding photographers don’t want their customers to know they are charging them $3k for a $300 book.

  3. Paul Butzi said, on May 9, 2008 at 9:26 am

    All the hoops are to keep clients (brides, etc) from being able to find out how much we’re marking up their books.

    It may be frustrating for you, but it’s a very good thing for us.

    This is foolishness. Way back when, this might have been a useful business strategy. But anyone with half a clue can find half a dozen businesses competing with Asuka, and find out what THEY charge. In the world of the internet, this sort of price cloaking is a futile strategy.

    If you’re a wedding photographer and you think you’re in the business of selling hard goods, I think you have the wrong business model, honestly. You’re not selling a $400 printed book for $1500 (or whatever you charge). You’re doing a bunch of contract photography, you’re doing a book layout, editing, etc. etc. for $1100 and tacking on $400 to get the book printed. You’re selling photography, not books.

    And if Asuka think they are in the business of selling only to wedding pros, I think they’ve got the wrong business model as well. Makes no difference to me. Good riddance, as far as I’m concerned.

    Print on demand companies are commonplace these days. My problem is not finding one to do the work I want, it’s deciding which of the many options is the one with whom I want to work for this particular project.

  4. Greg said, on May 9, 2008 at 9:40 am

    You’re right about the business model. But some of the clients would still freak out. Of course, your response to that would be that those are the wrong clients. And you’d be right.

    Food for thought. Thanks for the well-said response.

  5. Greg said, on May 9, 2008 at 9:42 am

    It’s like the potential clients that say, “Why are you charging $15 for a 4×6 print? I can buy those at Wal-Mart for 19 cents!!”

    Well, actually you can’t. You can buy prints at Wal-Mart for 19c. But you can’t buy MY prints at Wal-Mart. What you’re paying for is my art, not a print.

  6. Greg said, on May 9, 2008 at 9:43 am

    By the way, I don’t use Asuka books myself, but I know a lot of photographers who do. They’re worth the wait. 🙂

  7. Gordon McGregor said, on May 9, 2008 at 10:52 am

    The posts here some it up quite well

    ‘I know it is a little inconvienent but it helps protect those who are trying to make a living at it.’
    ‘We are in this business to make a profit… aren’t we?’

  8. Gary said, on May 9, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I looked some time ago and backed out at the application. Too many other places to go. BTW, if clients are paying $300 for a $3 book then you are in the wrong business. They should be paying $300 for your expertise as a photographer.

  9. Rosie Perera said, on May 9, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    This reminds me of an interesting email exchange I just had with a friend. I’ll abbreviate it for the sake of giving you the gist of it:

    Friend: I am overwhelmed at the beauty of your photo of ___. I would like to buy that photo and put it up in my home. Of course, you’ll have to sign it for me.

    Me: I’m honored that you would want to buy one of my photos. What size print would you like? I could do an 8×12 for you, with matte and frame (16×20) for $250.

    Fr: I have someone who will frame it for me and they’ve been doing this for me for years. So give me a price on the photo by itself.

    Me: I can sell you the photo by itself (8×12) for $20. I do my own matting and framing, but I understand if you want someone else to do it for you. But I’ll only sign it if I do the matting and framing. Too much trouble to work with your framer to get the matte to me to sign after it is cut but before it gets mounted into the frame. And besides, it wouldn’t all be my work, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable signing it.

    Fr: Rosie, you are a tough but wonderful ‘cookie’. You do the matting then and framing. Should I send you a cheque as an advance or pay you all at once?

    This whole exchange leaves me thinking back on your dilemma about photo pricing. The $20 is nearly twice my cost to get the photo printed. I figure the markup compensates me for my time dealing with the print shop and paying for parking. More than that markup would seem unjustified. I charge $250 for the framed version, to cover cost of materials and since it’s more labor intensive for me. I’m essentially not charging people for the labor of going out and taking the pictures and editing them on my computer, since I do all that for the love of it.

  10. Andrew said, on May 9, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Great way to do business – make it hard…

  11. Martin Doonan said, on May 11, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I’m surprised you went to the trouble of even filling out the form. This sort of practice was commonplace 10years ago, and I refused to do business with companies that did this sort of thing even then.

    A word to any company out there: make it easy to do business with you or I’ll go to your competitors.

  12. Cathy Rosselli said, on May 29, 2008 at 6:32 am

    As for me …I am a photographer …weddings…horse shows…and studio….
    pictage is good for most all my needs…and highly recommended…but they do not carry the Asuka style book….I have seen the Asuka book…and there is no other company I have seen with the quality of Asuka…for this type of presentation…show them your best work….and fill out the form…and be patient…you will not be sorry…every one who deals with them has done it…they are protecting the professional…and if you are a pro…you will appreciate the protection they afford you…if you are not pro…turn pro…
    you will not regret that decision either…
    photography is rewarding…and you need to think about all the time and editing that goes into it…and charge accordingly…if you undercharge just to get the work…you will find you have not made any money…Asuka is the best…and so is pictage.

  13. Peter Flynn said, on July 4, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    I logged on to get some ideas, I must say I have got some I was not expecting, at which web site form do I need to fill in to get the Rabid rats delivered, because i am sure there will be a few customs and quarantine forms as well.

    Being a user of this type of album, I can only say, that having used, Blurb, Snapfish, Momento and a few others, that Asuka Books are the best in there field, they don’t suit everyone, but for the market, that they work in they are perfect. In fact better than perfect, the wedding area, loves them.

    I have used one for a product promo I was doing, and it was looked at by my clients, as something very special, and without a doubt, sold them to use me for the next advertising campaign.

    So I can only say they were good for me.

  14. Motti said, on September 10, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Yes, arrogant is right.

    After messing up my order and not being able to process it for more than a week (they claimed that I sent the order too long after I complied it as a PDF! Who cares! It is my business and I will make the book anytime I want…but, oh not with Asuka)

    In any case, after two weeks they finally approved the book (they approved it before through e-mail just to send an email again four days later to say something is wrong. But this is another issue)I asked them if they can do their best to process it as fast as possible just to get the reply that I can always pay for a rush delivery.

    I wish I had this blog post to copy and send them suggesting what I think they should do with themselves.

    In Canada I am used to a very different business attitude. The extra cost for rush is like $15.00. Paying $250 for each book (and I made about ten of them this year so far) is a lot as it is, the least they can do is offer a bit of help. It’s called CUSTOMER SERVICE.

    My next book is with PictoBook, although they are also on the West coast (laxi-dazy) hopefully I will have a better experience.


  15. TTayo said, on December 13, 2008 at 2:15 am

    I’ve just had a similar experience trying to sign up with ASSuka Books in France. They want to know all my tax details to prove that I am worthy. Total BS.

    I’m not going to bother going any further. I’m actually so pi**ed off that I’m going to look into setting up a competitor service with people I know in the print industry.

    Imagine if Hasselblad or Canon made you jump through so many loops just to buy a camera.

    The argument about hiding the prices to protect the pro photographer is a fallacious one. Clients don’t have access to your artwork so there is nothing they can do.

    People don’t got o Mercedes and complain that they can buy a Toyota for a fraction of the price.

  16. J Jacobus said, on February 23, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Its because they are a wholesaler. Canon and hasselblad are not wholesalers. Try to go in a wholesale shopping club such as Costco or restaurant depot without signing up first and they will send you back to the counter where you sign up. It keeps clients from knowing your markup on products and also they dont want one time retail customers, they want businesses that will do repeat business. Its how it works.

  17. Paul Butzi said, on February 23, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Costco lists prices on its website, so I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make, here. Not only do they list prices for the stuff they sell, the list the prices for membership. And they don’t make you fill out an application to find out what those prices are.

    Mind you, I don’t object to a business model which has different structures for members. I object to a business that won’t give me even a clue about what their product costs without my proving a whole bunch of stuff to them first. And then, when I *do* prove that stuff, they tell me that they’ll get around to telling me what the pricing is in a few days.

    Canon and Hassy don’t actually sell products direct, even to pros. So again, I don’t see the analogy.

  18. Stephen Power said, on March 12, 2009 at 3:42 am

    Paul – take a few deep breaths. By the way – that is a really bland and unconnected image you have with the story!

  19. Paul Butzi said, on March 12, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Paul – take a few deep breaths.

    Right. Look, I wrote this post ten months ago, now. I’ve taken quite a few breaths. I’ve moved on. You’ve just stumbled across this post, and you’re inferring that I’m somehow clinging to my outrage and anger, and I’m incapable of getting on with my life?

    Hint: the closest stop for the clue bus is right over that way. You might take a ride. It’s free!

    By the way – that is a really bland and unconnected image you have with the story!

    By the way, you might try reading more than just a handful of posts before worrying about such details. The story behind the (lack of a) relationship between the content of posts and the photos that accompany the posts has been itself the subject of several posts, such as

    So, yes. the photo is bland. Yes, the photo is unconnected. And your point would be?

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