Sunday, February 05, 2006


I find it so interesting how little most people are willing to spend on books. I’m referring specifically to paperbacks since I myself have not yet reached the point in my life that I’m shelling out $20+ for a hardback. A mass-market paperback novel can run you anywhere from $5.50 to $7.99 full price—I’m not dealing with trade paperbacks here…they run more into the $12-$16 range—and $4.13 to $5.99 at a discount store like Walmart or Target. So let’s just round it off to an even $6.00. Well I don’t know what the average reading speed is, but that $6.00 will provide me with probably five hours of reading pleasure. Most movies run a little under three hours, are more expensive, and the ticket is good for only one showing. A book you can keep and read over and over and over. Just stick it on a shelf and rediscover it another day.

People think nothing of spending $5.00 on a cup of gourmet coffee. And yet a $6.00 book seems pricey. Why is that? Is it really possible to get the same amount of enjoyment from a frothy, caffeine-spiked beverage as it is from a book?! I suppose if you’re not a reader, perhaps, or if the book turns out to be a disappointment, but how will you ever know if you don't first read it? If you’re a lover of books, why not just buy the book? Read it—perhaps over coffee—then trade it, donate it, make a gift of it, keep it, or whatever. You might find your measly $6.00 responsible for hours of giggles, sighs, and thrilling suspense, and with a book, you’re free to get up and go to the bathroom at anytime without missing a thing! Beside that, you’re reading, and that’s downright impressive these days.

It could be that book sales have dropped off as gourmet coffee consumption has exploded…a non-fat, gingerbread latte with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg is only slightly less than the cost of a book. So maybe it’s a trade-off: one or the other. A consumable or a classic. And the way book stores are setup now, you can read a novel in installments. Simply order your coffee, fetch your book in progress, and read through as many chapters as you can before the cup’s empty. Then note your page number, replace the book on the shelf, and find it again on your next visit. Bookstores have unwittingly become the new libraries. Or perhaps it was wittingly…maybe they lease space in their stores to the coffee cafés, maybe they get a portion of the profits, maybe they just don’t know what’s going on…


Nancy Henderson said...

Good point. A book buys us 5+ writing time, but we pay 8 and upwards for a movie. Nice blog!

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Thanks Nancy! I hope you'll come back. I'm going to try to be more prolific with the posts!