How much would you pay for a book? Or, to put it another way, how much is a book worth to you?
A couple of weeks back, I was chatting to an acquaintance about books. During our conversation my acquaintance stated that many ebooks are overpriced (he mentioned that some cost £7 or more), and given the low cost of producing electronic versions they should be more reasonably priced. He also went on to state that he bought many of his books in charity shops, with many retailing for as little as £0.50.
The above conversation made me consider the question, what is a book worth? My collection of poetry “My Old Clock I Wind” retails for £2.99 (for the ebook) and £10.99 (for the paperback). Turning to a comparison with the demon drink. I enjoy a refreshing pint of Fosters. In my favourite local the price is £4, so anyone drinking there can enjoy two and a half pints of my favourite tipple at a cost of £10. Alternatively they could (with the addition of £0.99) purchase the paperback edition of “My Old Clock”, or three copies of the ebook (and still have change from a £10 note).
While beer is refreshing it is, by its nature here then gone. In contrast a book can be read many times (whether in electronic or paperback/hardback format). So, weighing my work against the cost of a pint in my favourite local, my book is, in my view value for money. In fact why not do both (I.E. purchase a copy of my book, in any format and enjoy a pint while reading it)!
The above comparison is intended to be read in a light hearted manner. There is, however a serious point to all this. Some individuals who complain about paying £10.99 for a paperback (or £7 for an ebook) will think nothing of buying several rounds of drinks on a Friday evening. Anyone who drinks in central London will know that (depending on the number of people in the round) that this can leave the person paying with a bar bill of £50, and on occasions considerably more.
All this is not to say that some books are not overpriced. I do, for example find it odd when I see ebooks costing similar amounts to their paperback/hardback alternatives. While it is right that authors and publishers need to make a living, there is much less cost entailed in producing an ebook and all things being equal ebooks should (in my opinion) reflect the lesser cost entailed in their production.
As regards books in charity shops, everyone loves a bargain and most people get a warm feeling knowing that there cheap purchase is helping to support a worthy cause. However (to state the blatantly obvious) authors and publishers could not survive where all books to be bought and sold in the second-hand market. Someone has to buy the book fresh off the press, otherwise the whole show will grind to a juddering halt!
In conclusion, books are, in the final analysis (as with any other product or service) worth whatever the purchaser is prepared to pay. A person who is caught up in the social whirl may think nothing of spending £70 or £80 on a night on the town, but ask that same person to buy a paperback for £10.99 and he protests that it is overpriced. While it is undoubtedly true that some books are overpriced, the vast majority certainly are not.
As always I would be interested in my reader’s views.