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Publishing, Writing

Why Are Books So Expensive?

Perdu dans les livres by Groume

Do you remember the days when a paperback cost $2.50? Well, I do. The price of the paperback – or should we just say “book” because hardcover’s have increased too – has increased more than 200% since the 1980s.

I was reminiscing about some of my favorite childhood books with my daughter a couple of months ago. I told her what types of books I read as a child. I also told her, to her delight, that I still had a few of those beloved childhood books. Of course she wanted to see them, but there was a problem. They were sitting in my parent’s dusty attic more than 3, 000 miles away. My daughter’s heart sunk. This was going to be another childhood memory that I couldn’t completely share with her. I told her that we would rummage in the attic the next time we travelled home to visit with grandma and grandpa; whenever that ever would happen. Well, that time came faster than I had expected. My father suddenly passed away on October 28 from a heart attack, and I entered the front door of my childhood home three days later on the 31st. Although my daughter couldn’t come with me, I had remembered my promise to her – in the midst of grieving and supporting my mom I was going to commence a
treasure hunt in my parent’s attic and find those books that I had been so fond of.

It took some time, but I had finally found the first crate of books. The first thing that shocked me was the cover copy. I hadn’t paid attention to how the book cover designs had changed over the years. My childhood books now looked archaic and unprofessional. The second thing that caught my eye was the price. It would be an understatement if I told you that I was mildly shocked. One book that I had held onto was The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. I paid $2.95 (before taxes) for the pleasure of reading a great book. I paid $2.75 (also before taxes) to obtain a copy of Are You There God? It’sMe, Margaret, which was written by the infamous Judy Blume. Who wouldn’t enjoy reading at those prices?

Glancing over the crates and boxes of books that I had carefully pulled out of the attic, without getting too much dust in my hair and on my clothes, I had begun to become more than a little annoyed, and actually at the same time – confused. I had spent my childhood buying books. I could indulge in my hobby by walking into a bookstore with $20 and walking out with a bag full of at least five books. I didn’t have to go to the library to borrow books because they were “expensive.” Nowadays the average child can’t do that because their parents can’t afford the bill. I conducted a quick search on Amazon to see how much the new and popular books cost and the average price range was $7-$20. I even found a box set (12 books) with a whopping price of $60. Thank goodness it’s on sale for $37.79! I have a feeling that they weren’t selling a lot of sets with the $60 price tag.

I’ve been wondering if books have become too expensive. The difference between the prices of today against those from twenty odd years ago are significant. I’ve read articles concerning this very topic, and have heard arguments about the behind the scenes costs – the book cover designers, editors, printing, warehouse storage, return and destruction of non-bought books… and the list goes on. But, didn’t we have the same types of costs and middle men back in the 80’s? Is inflation over the years the problem? Greed? Maybe it was difficult to turn a profit on a $2.95 book if you think about the overhead. I haven’t made up my mind on this issue, but if you’re as interested as I am about this topic, then here are some great articles for your nightstand:

This article’s from 2002, but still an interesting read by Christopher Dreher on

Rick Nerwman’s article entitled, “Barnes & Noble’s Convoluted Defense of Pricey Books” on–nobles-convoluted-defense-of-pricey-books

Here’s an interesting article from Nathan Bransford on eBook pricing, entitled “Why e-books cost so much:”





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