I am an avid buyer of books however I happen to be quite price conscious. So many times I have looked at nice lovely books and let out a sigh! My problem is not one of affordability. I can afford much more than what I let myself buy.
For me, price of a book reflects directly on the author (and publisher) of the book. Buying and reading a book is not a simple business transaction of giving money and getting the book. It is much more than that. The process of reading is the process of connecting with the author at an emotional level and trying to live and feel what he would have felt while writing the book. There are books for which this may not be entirely correct but even there, the words of the book are supposed to be thought over and understood.
And when I look at a thin, big font, one inch margin on each side book priced at 300 Rs. , the first question that comes to my mind is whether the author has written the book for me or for my money? And even if I can afford it, the question is there is a large section of the society that cannot afford it. What does writer think about them? All the books that talk about improving your life, getting more happiness and all the other self help crap, aren't they most accessible to those who are already in somewhat "better" conditions? Is it really worth going to such books for inspiration?
And leave aside self help books; I have seen very good books, based on years of research, having content that begs to reach to masses, priced so high that most of the masses can't even think of buying them. Why would somebody put in so much hard work into creating something and then make it so difficult to access?
The other side of the coin is that even authors are human beings and they need money to survive. They have aspirations and those aspirations ask for money. Why would somebody put in so much effort and just let everybody have it for peanuts? I think the following excerpt from the preface of a book whose author decided to give it away free on the net, is quite relevant:
"Why would an author give away an unlimited number of copies of her book for free?
That's a good question. When `Underground’s researcher, Julian Assange, first suggested releasing an electronic version of the book on the Net for free, I had to stop and think about just that question.
I'd spent nearly three years researching, writing and editing the nearly 500 pages of `Underground'. Julian had worked thousands of hours doing painstaking research; discovering and cultivating sources, digging with great resourcefulness into obscure databases and legal papers, not to mention providing valuable editorial advice. So why would I give away this carefully ripened fruit for free?
Because part of the joy of creating a piece of art is in knowing that many people can - and are - enjoying it. Particularly people who can't otherwise afford to pay $11 USD for a book."
-- Suelette Dreyfus
Writing a book is a profession but more than that it is the satisfaction of writing that motivates the author. Or at least those are the kind of authors, I want to read.
However, there is another side to this story.