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Monday, April 24

Books for all - I

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.

6 comments:

Anastasia said...

This is an interesting dilemma you are presenting here. I am an avid reader myself and this concerns me quite a bit. I think much responsibility lies with the publisher too though I can imagine that authors (particularly the famous ones) have always a say on the price. The one thing I vehemently oppose (and is very much responsible for price) are hard-cover books. Unless it is some form of special edition, hard cover books for aesthetic purposes are not worth our money I think and it is really unfair, as these books tend to be inaccessible to many.

Jaya said...

However, there is another side to this story.

May be it'll come in the other side of the story. (Since it is titled " Books for all - I", I suppose there will be a " Books for all - II") May be it will not in the form I'd like to say. All I have to say is there are people who can afford to write just for the satisfaction. There are forms of writings, which can be written for the sake of satisfaction. But then there are those people, who can not afford so. And there are those forms which demand so much from the author that for the practical aspects of life, there has to money and enough money that covers the opportunity cost. So, ultimately more than what authors or publishers do, it is your choice. I intend to emphasize what you seem to have casually put at the end -

Or at least those are the kind of authors, I want to read.

Go ahead. But there is no generic rule that if an author has put a certain price tag on the book, the emotional connection *has* to break away. :) "For you" and "For your money" need not be mutually exclusive. May be it does break for you in certain cases, but that is it. It is *you* in *certain cases*. (The emphasis on *you* should not be interpreted as emphasis on you as a person. I mean to emphasize the preferences any individual may or may not have.)

Pradeep Mishra said...

Chalo bahut dino ke baad tumhe yaad aa hi gaya ki ek abhaga blogspot bhi hai..

Ankur said...

I was hardly able to appreciate the content of the post or the subject it deals with. I am not quite an avid reader. But I found it well written for sure. Look forward to read more of your posts on such topics.

abhaya said...

Jaya: I understand that some books require investments and I have no problems with the proce tags attached to them. So I have this book on my wishlist which costs 7000/- Rs. and considering the content and small niche it targets, may be that is right. But it is after discounting for all those things that I still feel, a lot of books are highly over priced.
So it is not the absolute scale of price but it is more the perception of "value for money" that decides "authors I want to read".

abhaya said...

Ankur: I am also not an avid reader but I am an avid buyer, in the hope of converting to the first category at some point of time :)