Getting off my train and heading into the city with a few minutes of my day still to spare, I found myself where I usually find myself when free time is of the essence: A book shop. Despite knowing that upon entrance, my entire sense of rational thinking disappears and my bank account begins to weep for mercy, I enter anyway eager to see which new books are gracing the charts and those classics which have been re-designed. Amongst today’s favourites were a signed copy of Ali Smith’s ‘Winter’, a hardback edition of the bestselling ‘The Power’ and Mary Beard’s edited lectures on ‘Women and Power’. But despite being lost in the words of all of these brilliant and genius minds, there was something which slowly began to irritate me more and more…
I managed to put my finger on exactly what it was that had been bothering me when I was leaving the shop with £20 worth of books (2 new paperbacks) in my backpack. It was the price of these writings akin to those that I leaf through incessantly and constantly, moving from one to the next quicker than I devour some meals, which was the problem. For unlike with food, books are not considered staple enough to a human diet to be kept to a price as low as lettuce or grated cheese, instead remaining at £7.99 at lowest when bought new in paperback form. How can this be?
In an age when education is better designed and updated than it has ever been before, it is so important to ensure that it remains accessible for everyone. Because when prices go up, they may as well be writing these books in Latin for all the good it does for students and working class families who love to read. A book shouldn’t be seen as something which can only be bought for a special treat every once in a while. Yes, it is a treat to read because it is wonderful and inside pages there are stories unlike you or I may ever experience in real life. So why should we be prevented from living these astounding lives and deprived of learning about everything from the global popularity of orange juice to the thoughts of Richard Dawkins? When we buy these books we are adhering to copyright law and making sure the authors, publishers and all involved get paid, so why should we be punished for enjoying art legally?
All of my life I’ve been a reader. And in the age of the internet, I know hundreds of people who daily write reviews of books on Goodreads or make vlogs about their favourite characters will agree with me in saying that the steep rise in costs (particularly regarding the humble paperback) are worrying in what they represent not only for us but for the next generation. How can we possibly encourage young people to keep reading when the covers, blurbs and content are enticing but there is simply no money to afford books despite this? Why should we be living in an age where publishing is increasing the range of voices to dive into, and all that is stopping people from swimming in them is the cost? Yes books via the internet are cheaper, and yes second hand book stores are always worthwhile places to explore, but the book shop itself where so many brand new books lie in wait is the place of dreams. Walking in there is walking into several floors and shelves of unanticipated energy – you never know what you mind find, but you know with a certain eagerness that you will soon be leaving with something new to read that has the potential to become the next modern classic, with reviews still pouring in.
No one deserves to be told that they cannot have access to stories and in an age of increasing budget cuts and library closures and shrinkage, of inflation, recession and hyper book prices, I say this is enough. We are people with minds who want to buy books that have an extra story; the story of where we bought them, why they caught our eye and how they ended up on our shelves. We are people who connect through our interests and the things we learn through books. We are the children who grew up with a sixth sense gifted to us by the bedtime stories our parents read and the letters we learnt in school. We are the people with the power to make a difference with just one click of a mouse on the internet. So if there is anything I can do to play my part, it is in writing this. Today I noticed that book prices are making books increasingly difficult to access. Enough is enough – Let’s take back to the right to our bookstores.