Mario Villalobos

I Don’t Think Books Are Overpriced

  • Notes

Last week, Ted Gioia wrote a good article about Barnes & Noble’s recent turnaround, and in it, he quotes James Daunt, the current CEO of Barnes & Noble:

Back when he was 26, Daunt had started out running a single bookstore in London—and it was a beautiful store. He had to borrow the money to do it, but he wanted a store that was a showplace for books. And he succeeded despite breaking all the rules.

For a start, he refused to discount his books, despite intense price competition in the market. If you asked him why, he had a simple answer: “I don’t think books are overpriced.”

I don’t think books are overpriced. Books, to me, have always been the one exception I’ve made when it came to my budget and how I spent money. If I really wanted a book but I really didn’t have the money, I bought it anyway. I understand how irresponsible this sounds, and it is… or was. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can afford to do this now without amassing any form of consumer debt, and in fact, the one reason why I’m not buying books all the time is because I live in a small apartment and I don’t have the space to keep them all. So I have to be a bit judicious about it (says the guy who bought more books yesterday).

I don’t think books are overpriced. And they’re not. Most paperbacks cost somewhere around $10-15, and hardcovers are maybe $10 more than that. For what books offer, that’s relatively cheap. I like buying paper books because I like writing in them (see here), and I like holding them. I’m not opposed to eBooks—hell, at the end of 2020, I wrote about Standard eBooks, and just yesterday they released about half a dozen new books, some of which just entered the public domain, and I downloaded many of them. Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis sounds AMAZING. I simply prefer holding my books and writing in them. There’s a simple pleasure whenever I start a book for the first time and I bend the front cover behind the back of the book and I hold it in place as I read the page on the right, then as I get deeper into the book, I do the same but with the back cover—ahhh, I love doing that. Anyways.

I don’t think books are overpriced. Even though I only read 10 books last year, I spent $1,273.84 on books anyway. That’s a helluva lot more than I spent on music, I can tell you that much. I spent most of that money on, and yeah, they charge more for books than a place like Amazon, but again, I don’t think books are overpriced. I’m happy Barnes & Noble is doing well. Whenever I make my way to Missoula, I usually try to stop at the local Barnes & Noble (after first checking out Shakespeare & Co., the best bookstore around), and I usually come away with something good (they had Spanish versions of Don Quixote and One Hundred Years of Solitude last time I was there, so I bought those).

I love books, and I love spending money on things I love… so yeah, that’s how I spent $1,273.84 on books last year. Fuck’s sake, that’s crazy, lol.