Monday, February 23, 2015

What's It Worth?

After my pitiful moan in my last post about having to get a new PC, I felt I must give you an update.  After a few fraught days when we gazed at each other in mutual horror ('Who is this idiot, mucking bout with my inner workings?') we have settled down to a remarkably harmonious relationship.

There are different ways of doing things, certainly, but on the whole they haven't been too hard to figure out and some of the differences are definite improvements.  And I have to say it is very refreshing not to have a sulky 'Not responding' popping up every ten minutes.

The corner was turned once wonderful Brian came round and installed Solitaire and Free Cell - so essential for bad days at the office as the civilised alternative to banging one's head against the keyboard and screaming.  So I'm well set up now (even without switching to a Mac, Rick!) with hopefully a few years ahead before I descend again into depression about having to buy a new one.

That's not really what I wanted to write about today, in fact.   I've blogged before, as have others, more than once about book prices being cut to the bone.  I remember the point being made that if you spilled your coffee over the book you were reading, it would be cheaper to replace the book than the coffee.

I've also read a good number of blogs by readers saying they should be cheaper still, indeed free, even one defending using a pirate site on the grounds that he wanted to read the book and couldn't afford it, ' so I had to.' No one would be sympathetic to me if I stole a Rolls Royce for similar reasons.

But actually, this isn't a moan about our work not being properly paid for.  I read an article recently that pointed out, in very reasonable tones, that we're not exactly in a seller's market.  There were 140,000 books published in Britain last year, and that's without counting the self-published ones that no one's counted.

The recent glut of oil worldwide has meant that the gas prices have come down.  Bad weather in the significant regions has meant that the price of chocolate has risen.  Of course books aren't cans of baked beans but we're still engaged in a commercial transaction.

We can all talk about the concept of 'worth' when it comes to books, but I suppose an article is only 'worth' what anyone else will pay for it. Even if I don't like it, I accept that it's a rational argument.

On the other hand, the French have been totally adamant about the fixed book price.  Yet go into any large French supermarket and you will find a book section easily comparable in size and range to a good bookshop.  You can pop in for a trolley of groceries and chuck in a copy of  Sartre's L'Etranger at the same time - and they do.

Recently Tom Stoppard was complaining that he can't rely on a hinterland of literary knowledge in the audiences for his plays the way he could twenty years ago.  I would doubt if the same would be true in France.

You get what you pay for - which I suppose is where I came in.

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