The most teeth-grindingly annoying comment that I heard from customers when I was a bookseller was ‘Books are so expensive, aren’t they.’ Obviously the answer is ‘No’ but let me explain quite why that is. Bear with me – I’ve been wanting to get this off my chest for some time.
Let’s think about just how many people are involved in getting a book from its inception into our eager little hands. There’s the writer, of course – always at the bottom of the heap, sadly, but an advance has to be paid no matter how small, then with luck some royalties if the advance has been earned out; his or her agent – hard to get a book published without one of those and they need their cut; next the publisher who has to pay for editing, proof reading, copy editing, jacket design, marketing, printing and the costs of distribution– I’m sure that’s not all but you get the idea; finally the bookseller – premises, rent, light, heating, staff all have to be paid for. That’s quite a lot of bites out of the cover price of your average book, and most of us don’t pay that these days.
Then consider how much an evening at the cinema, a London exhibition, a theatre matinée or even a couple of lattes would cost. You can’t re-experience these or share them without paying more but you can re-read a book, pass it around your friends, even altruistically leave it on a bus for someone else to discover or give it to your favourite charity shop. That’s why books are not expensive. There, I feel much better now.