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Pet Peeve # 1394: Books Are Expensive

Now that it’s officially summer, it’s also book fair season, something I have missed the last couple of years due to health problems. I have already signed up (or intend to) for two of them in the next few months. They are a fun, though exhausting, way to spend an afternoon. You get to catch up with other local writers and meet new ones as well as present your books to a portion of the public that is actively interested in buying books. Actually buying them.

Imagine that. Someone who might actually shell out money in exchange for one of your books.

Which segues nicely into the topic of one of my literary pet peeves: people who think your book sounds interesting when you describe it to them, but then tell you: “I don’t buy books. They’re just too expensive.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with folks who are living paycheck-to-paycheck or on a fixed income who simply have no money to spend on luxuries. They earn nothing from me but sympathy. I have walked quite a few miles in their shoes and know it isn’t much fun.

I have been known on occasion to simply give them a copy. Just because.

No, my dispute, rather, is with those who are clearly not scraping coins together to put food on the table who still maintain books are too expensive.

Yes, books are expensive. Hardcovers generally average about $25.00 in my part of the world. Trade paperbacks run about $15.00 and mass market paperbacks about $9.00. It isn’t chump change. I usually only allow myself to buy one new book per month just because I too am not made of money. However, as expensive as books are, they aren’t really that unreasonable when you consider the cost of other forms of entertainment.

And because I’m the sort of person who enjoys doing such things I took the time to research some entertainment costs and how they compare to the costs of books. (Note, however, that these prices are generally on the low end of the range and only valid in my particular part of my particular state and nation—southwestern Oregon, United States. Costs in other areas should be relatively proportional.)

So here is what I found:

Community theatre $10.00 per person (plus snacks)
Mass market paperback $9.00
Movie at theater $10.00 per person (plus snacks)
Camping $15.00 per day (plus food and equipment)
Trade paperback $15.00
Dining out $15.00 per person
Music CD $20.00
Hardcover book $25.00
Hunting/fishing license $35.00 (plus cost of equipment)
Night at club/bar $40.00 per person
Satellite/cable tv $50.00 per month
Pro sports ticket $50.00 per person
College sport ticket $50.00 per person
Music concert ticket $60.00 per person
Video game purchase $60.00
Pay per view sports $65.00
Music festival ticket $130.00
Video game console $300.00

As you can see, books—even hardcover books—are on the low end of the entertainment expense spectrum. Factor in the number of hours your entertainment dollar buys, and books become an even greater value. (And this does not even take into account all the intangible benefits reading brings that cannot be monetized, such as improved vocabulary, eloquence, compassion and general intelligence).

So now I have the data. So how will I respond when someone tells me how expensive it is to buy a book?

“Really?” I will tell them. “It’s about the same as going out for dinner by yourself. Once.”

I wonder how they will react to that?

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