Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cheap Books?

Cheaper Books?

Recently I had an epiphany! In the debate over pricing and availability in the Australian Book Industry there has been much said over the expense of books in this country. Until recently I have always accepted that this may be a little true but as our paper is better quality in the US and our industry is smaller there is explanations for this that make sense. We need a viable industry and books are priced accordingly. But recently I was talking to my boss, recently back from the Leading Edge conference for Independent Booksellers and they mentioned a highlight was Henry Rosenbloom – head of Scribe and an important voice for Independent Retailers. He made the point that the claim that books are expensive in Australia should be countered by the simple question:

COMPARED TO WHAT?

And there is the epiphany. Right there! See, what he was saying and what I now am realising is that books aren’t that expensive. Bear with me here.

You pay $30 for a CD; for an adult to go to the movies it is at least $15 and if you want a 3D experience you can ad on top of that – and as for popcorn? A drink? Then a $5 choc-top; a half decent pub meal is at least $20-$30; people are guilty of spending much, much more on ‘a good night out’; a mediocre bottle of wine is up to $30; some DVDS hit $40.

Shall I go on?

Do people often complain about the price of crockery; or furniture? No. These prices are justified for the amount of use one gets out of them. The same people who spend $3000 on a designer handbag or even $45 on a nice canvas tote are often the same ones who are whinging about book prices. I mean, really!

A standard large format Trade Paperback averages at $33. When these drop down to smaller format they range between $21.95 and $26.95 and then when they get reprinted they go down in price again. Many classics are available for under $15, the Popular Penguins for under $10. Paperback children’s fiction and teen fiction rarely goes over $20. Hardbacks are a different price range, but again, prices come down with format.

Now, I’m a fast reader. It might take me four hours to polish off Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with no gaps or a couple of busy days to finish Never Let Me Go on the train. (Don’t talk to me about The Female Eunuch it is still being unread). Most people take much longer to read a book and get an extended enjoyment out of it. There is a consistent, lasting reliable form of entertainment in a book.

You might argue this is value for money. A film lasts a couple of hours; most CDs are under an hour; a meal often less. And you know? Best of all, you can read it again. It is your right to do that, or read a favourite passage. A book will sit on your shelf and be your friend whenever you might need it. Or alternatively buy second hand (score!) or visit your library. As long as you are reading, you are growing.