Since I’m an author, you can pretty much assume on first meeting that I’m also an avid reader. Once you get to know me, you don’t need to ‘assume’ anymore; you know. And if you are also an avid reader, or even just an average reader, you know that books are expensive. Even e-books.
And, if you know anything about the publishing process, you don’t begrudge the author, the editor, the printer, and the bookstore owner the price of those books. After all, it’d be a real shame if they went out of business because they couldn’t make a profit, now wouldn’t it? However, we’re all happy when we can find a place we can get books for less than the usual price.
Which leads me to the point for today. I don’t make a habit of frequenting libraries. Yeah, I know this sounds odd, but it makes sense. See, I like to own my books. The idea of having to return a volume to someone else on a deadline is just disgusting. I want to be able to put that book on a shelf and know that it’ll be there, no matter how long it takes for me to read it again.
But then my sister got a job… at a library. Since I usually pick her up after work every day, strolling around in the library for a few minutes before closing time has become a bit of a habit. And it turns out that this particular library has a permanent book sale. If they already have a book, or don’t have room for it on the shelves, any duplicate that comes in gets put in the sale. For 25 cents, plus tax.
That’s 27 cents total. For any and every book in the sale. That includes pamphlets, paperbacks, hardbacks, leatherbounds, and textbooks. 27 cents.
Now, the availability of specific books is pretty much hit and miss, since this particular sale relies on donations to the library. It’s not too much of a problem, since the price means that you can buy four books for less than the cost of a pack of gum. If you’re not crazy about one of them, you can donate/sell/trash it without much regret. And I’ve gotten several really good novels so far, as well as a lot of textbooks on subjects that fascinate me. And everybody knows how expensive textbooks are.
But, 27 cents. It’s a great deal for everybody directly involved. I get books for less than a dollar each and the library gets cash for donated items. Everybody wins. Or do they?
As a reader and at first glance, I love this. Running out of reading material is a common problem for me, since my wallet is only human. Well, I’m only human and I keep the wallet supplied, so it amounts to the same thing. However, once I got around to really thinking about it, as a reader and as an author, the whole situation rather worries me. Maybe they’re valid concerns and maybe not, but at least they got me thinking, and maybe they’ll get you thinking, too.
When a person decides to sell something, he prices it within a range that people are willing to pay for it. 27 cents. Sure, the library got them for free, but still. That’s what a book is worth at a library. 27 cents. Is that because that’s what people are willing to pay for it? When I combine that with the fact that our only bookstore, part of the Hastings chain , just began to branch out into what seems to be the realm of the convenience store, it starts me wondering.
Books ought to be worth their weight in… something valuable. It used to be gold. Today, it could be copper, or something worth at least 3$ a pound. You don’t have to a pay for a book more than once. You don’t have to buy electricity for it, or worry about the power going out. If it gets wet, there’s a chance it can be fixed. It’s a repository of knowledge, or entertainment, depending on what kind of book it is. With any luck, it’s a thing of beauty, leather-bound and gold-leafed. It can be handed down for generations, or given to friends.
27 cents? That’s it?