The cost of reading: books ARE expensive

Posted September 28, 2017 by Nicky in General / 4 Comments

Apropos of a twitter conversation, here is some data on the assertion that “books aren’t expensive”. Folks, please remember this is relative. Books may appear cheap to you, but they may not to someone else, and this depends on at least three factors.

  • Cost of books where you are (including availability of second-hand books)
  • Your income
  • How much you read

This post is intended to offer you some data on how the amount you read can make books pretty darn expensive for you.

I keep stats on my reading. For every book I read, I add how much it cost me, and get totals per month, per quarter and per year. So I enter £7.99 for a new paperback, £3 for a book that I got second-hand, and £0.00 for an ARC or library book, etc, etc. Two-thirds of my reading material, probably, is stuff I’ve bought, while another third is library books, ARCs or stuff I’ve borrowed or am rereading (which I don’t count again). To make it clearer, here’s an example: my reading material in the first week of August, and how much it cost.

You can see that Babylon cost me £9.99, for instance; I bought that in the UK. Catching Breath cost me £21.15 — I bought that in Amsterdam, so that’s a direct conversion from euros done on the day I bought it. In the UK you can get it for £12.99, by the way. Hengeworld cost me £2.00, because I had a second-hand copy, and Acadie cost me nada because Tor sent me an e-galley (thank you, Tor!).

All clear?

Here’s the very rough guide to how much the books I read in a quarter have cost me: £300+. So you can basically call my reading speed £100+ worth of books per month, not counting anything I get for free (a significant portion of what I consume). That means that just to keep up with my own reading speed, I need to spend £100 or more per month on new books — I’m sure you can agree that that’s too much for many people’s budgets.

I barely need to point out, too, that while books are pretty affordable in Britain, often under £10… if you live in a non-English-speaking country you can pay twice that or more for a single book. Or that many people have tiny incomes which certainly wouldn’t be able to keep up with a reading speed like mine. And that libraries are great, but may not have great stocks of the books you want to read (sorry, Leuven library, but your English-language selection isn’t expanding fast enough to keep up with me).

This isn’t a justification for piracy. It’s just noting that books are actually expensive and a luxury for some people. Just because books are easy and cheap for you to obtain doesn’t mean that holds true for everyone. Stick to the stuff that’s indisputably true — piracy deprives authors of earnings.

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4 responses to “The cost of reading: books ARE expensive

  1. Books ARE expensive! But I’m also not okay with piracy. It’s actually why I became a book blogger, mostly 😀 I pay for the books with my work now, haha. I only buy when books are on sale on the Kindle though, and lower than 3$ – otherwise I just… it would just be stupid. I live in Lithuania, printed books are stupidly expensive (a book can cost me up to a week’s food expenses! That’s stupid!!), and I’m not even talking about fresh books in English, the shipping would be ridiculous. E-books are the solution and I don’t care if people think “they’re not real books”. Food is more real to me than being proper about the book smell and pretty bookstagram photos 😀
    Evelina recently posted…Your Double Gets Your Wife, You Get Persecution. What Do You Do?My Profile

    • Just in case it isn’t clear, the post isn’t saying I’m okay with piracy. It’s just addressing the statement that “books aren’t expensive” (which arose in the context of complaining about piracy).

      Totally agree about ebooks. A lot of the time they’re my solution too, though I do love printed books.

  2. I’ve funded my book spending partly by selling possessions I don’t need ie my older CD collection, unwanted dvds etc and by trading for Amazon vouchers which is a life saver! Books are expensive but I guess I justify it because I don’t drink, smoke, gamble, eat out, go to pubs or cinema, spend money on beauty/fashion/shoes/clothes etc! I agree with what you say about it being relative to your income or the country you live in. I like the UK for it’s charity shops (just made a big splurge there this week), discount book shops and second hand book shops. Ebooks are also a big help and I love them but nothing quite beats the feel of those old favourite books in your hands.
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    • Yeah, I sell my old books a fair amount in Belgium, since there’s a demand for English language books. That keeps me in books, too.

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