28 December 2006

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

The price of books, both in relative and absolute terms. As the post two or three down suggests, I like books. I like reading them, I like writing them, I like looking at them on my shelf. But I hate paying as much as I do for them.

It all starts when I open up the front cover and look at the American and Canadian prices. A book that is only 22 bucks in the States costs 30 dollars here. Now, back when the Canadian dollar was comparable to Monopoly money in terms of both pretty colours and value, maybe I can understand that. But currently the loonie is worth around 86 cents of a US greenback. That's a 1.16 exchange rate. Yet the scenario above--which does in fact apply to a book that I wanted to buy this morning at Chapter's called Ethical Realism (sounds to me like the realists are looking to inject some values into their thinking...isn't that just democratic realism, then?)--has an exchange rate of 1.36. Another book I saw that costs $25 in the US is $36 here, an exchange of 1.44. Tack on the GST and we're being gouged yet another 6% Mercifully they don't add the PST to books, or it would be even worse.

That's the relative portion of book costs. Now the absolute. $30 for a little 150-page hardcover? Come on! I know that Chapter's, the book publisher, and the author(s) all gotta get paid, but the cost of paper is quite small and it's not as if these large industries are paying through the nose to get their binding done in their own publishing houses. I don't have much problem paying a little bit to gain the insights and knowledge of others, but the costs on some books are absurd. It's bizarre to me that I bought Harry Truman's biography for 25 bucks, but a professor's book (actually collection of speeches of Canadian political thinkers) runs closer to 50. The biography was a purchase of choice, but if I want to get within half a point of an A- I have to buy the book (long story that I won't go into here). Take a guess which one I got a lot more enjoyment out of. Given the priority which we place upon knowledge in this society as a foundation for a successful life, it would make some sense to lower the costs somewhat in order to encourage more people to make the purchases.

Really, the relative thing drives me far more bonkers than the absolute. Because most books are written and published in the United States, it's sensible that the cost in Canada be slightly higher (shipping, international book deals, etc.) to buy American books. But at a rate of 33% to 44% higher when the exchange rate is only 1.16? Malarkey, says I. And that's what really grinds my gears.


C. LaRoche said...

Richard, what is this, the Red Herring hour?

We get a big multi-paragraph post on small discrepancies in book prices and nothing on Saddam's inevitable demise?


RGM said...

Saddam's death pretty much speaks for itself. World's better off without him and so forth. No need for me to chime in with some self-evident truths, though I will add that I've been thinking a lot more about the millions of lives he ruined than about he himself.