Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Value of a full-price book

I don't like to pay full price for books.
Bargain Books
Bargain Books (Photo credit: KOMUnews)

I mean, it's sensible. The number of books I accumulate is probably borderline obscene. And should I dislike a book, it's unlikely I'll recoup the expense.

So I use the library, or I buy used, or I get them from PaperBackSwap. Sometimes I buy them from, and occasionally, I'll go to Barnes and Noble with a coupon.

You could definitely say I'm part of "the problem", then. Because clearly, I'm not supporting independent booksellers, authors, or presses.

But that's not entirely true.

There's an independent bookstore not far from my home. And they have great literary events, many of which are free.

And I do believe in buying a little something to support free entertainment. A reading in a coffee shop? I'll get a tea. A reading in a bar?  I'll get a beer. A reading in a sandwich shop? Well, I had to eat dinner anyway...

After all, if the venue doesn't make any money off of events, what incentive do they have for holding the events? None. Which means no more free events.

Or, let's be realistic, cheap events. Two hours of readings for the price of a milkshake? Well, you have to pay $4 for the milkshake to get the reading, which sounds a little wrong... but I look at it like this: the event was only $4, and came with a free milkshake!

So what does that have to do with books?

I went to a free reading at my local independent bookstore.  Afterwards, I wanted to buy something to show my support and encourage them to have more events.

All of the books were full price.

I found a book I had been wanting to read .  It cost $16, list price, plus tax.

I looked at the book. I would never pay full price for it otherwise -- there aren't many books I want to read badly enough to pay full price for, and most of those I'm pre-ordering and thus getting a deal anyway.

But I would have paid $10 for the event.

Which meant I was really only paying $6 for the book.

I was totally willing to pay $6 for the book.

There are times -- free readings, Q&A/signing sessions, Kickstarters to get the darned things published -- when it's worth it to pay full price.  Because you're supporting authors, venues, and the arts in general. Subtract the value you're getting from that support, and the book you're buying might be pretty inexpensive indeed.
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