Friday, October 21, 2005

Give a Book a Look

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I grew up around books: reading them, buying them, collecting them, proofreading them, copy editing them, editing them, shelving them when I worked in campus libraries, donating them when my personal collections got too vast.

I've always been interested in book cover design, typography, author bios on book covers, back cover blurbs, front cover flashes.

In almost every way, books have been appealing to me, except in one as the years went on: THE PRICE. As I got into my late teens and early twenties and I cruised bookstores, lookin' for a good read, I'd find something that I might've read about in a magazine, which sounded interesting to me, and I bought it. I could still afford to. As time went on, I began to head to the publishers' clearance tables of the bookstores, gathering up several books at a time to buy.

But even those days are long gone. Books are damn expensive to buy. Working in the industry, I know that books are damn expensive to produce, so paying the price shouldn't be such a shocker. But it still continues to be.

I always wonder how people can afford to belong to monthly bookclubs, such as my company offers, and get boxfuls of books, paying shipping and handling and state/provincial taxes. I wonder how people can go into the bookstores and buy two or three hardcovers or even paperbacks each month.

As a parent who wants to pass on a few good reads to a child (and not necessarily from a public library or even a secondhand bookstore), I'm at somewhat of a loss when I see the prices of books. Tonight I bought two thin paperbacks for my two oldest children, as a treat for them. These books that total between them less than 200 pages, ran me up a bill of $14 or so...Canadian. Maybe in the States it would have cost me $11 or so. It's still a lot for a silly and simple read, nothing notable about these books.

I, on the other hand, managed to find a softcover publishers' clearance book for myself; I paid 99 cents for the book, which was about 6 years old and a wonderful piece of fiction by a Canadian author who is fairly well-known in these parts. This book even received a wonderful review in the NY Times in its heyday. I felt lucky to have a 99 cents find for a good piece of fiction, but honestly, it hurt me that the author-publisher relationship had come to this and his book was like confetti that's left on the floor after a great party -- fun while it lasted, but a hassle to get rid of.

I adore children's books. Children's books, hardcover or soft, do not come cheap, but a parent has to make some exceptions to make some worthwhile purchases of such books that can become family keepers.

I'm only blogging about the price of books because when I came home tonight and showed the kids the books I bought for them, my daughter asked me after examining the book jacket, "How come we always have to pay more for books here than in the United States?" I had to give her a quick explanation of the American vs. the Canadian dollar, and then gave her a brief concept of book publishing costs in general.

Maybe she "got it" but I'm still wondering about it all.


A Simple Jew said...

Pearl: Check out this book site that I find very helpful to buy books at the cheapest price:

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I love books. Price is an issue though. But obliviousness is bliss.

ball-and-chain said...

Pearl: Around here these large warehouse stores pop up periodically. They have big signs that say "Book Sale" and really great prices (particularly on board books that the baby is just going to eat). Maybe you have some up in the great white north. Chag Sameach

tuesdaywishes said...

I buy a lot of used books. There are a couple of thrift shops that sell them really cheap (like a dollar or less) and some that go by a percentage of the cover price. Bestsellers are still usually under $4, and hardcovers $2 or so. Value Village sells all kids books for 50 cents each.

The Scholastic book orders the kids get at school have some good deals. (Don't get me started on advertising directly to kids) Generally the classics are cheap, under $3, while the licensed-character trash is a bit more, but still cheap enough to buy as birthday presents for classmates. (My limit on that is $10)There was a Jewish kids' book order I saw last year, but the prices were just too high.