Everytime I read about an author getting a million dollar advance, I can’t help wondering .. who buys all those books ?
Some years ago, a poll disclosed that two-thirds of all Americans don’t read even one book a year. And last week, there was a TV segment that said that almost 40 million Americans were unable to read. And yet those book publishers must be making money. I can only conclude that those who buy books must buy a lot of them.
While I do read a fair bit, I borrow my books from the excellent public library system. In addition to the libraries in Edison, I access the much larger Woodbridge library system by paying $ 50/ year. It is money well spent because between them these libraries give me almost all the books I would like to read. Getting books and magazines from a library means that I will be more likely to read them. When I did subscribe to magazines, I would put them aside for later reading and never get to them. Ultimately, I would store them for a year or two and then junk them.
Then again, at about $25 ( hardcover) and $ 7 ( paperback), books are expensive considering that one reads most books only once. There is definitely a pleasure in collecting books for a personal library but the truth is that they are usually never read again and just collect dust on one’s shelves. Books are also bulky and they occupy a lot of space.Yet, one becomes attached to them and getting rid of them is a wrench.
The only books I buy are those which I will refer to over and over again such as cookbooks and spiritual texts and reference books. I also get a few books at library sales though even here I am becoming increasingly abstemious. The other day I saw ” The Winter of Frankie Machine ” by Don Winslow on sale for only 25 cents. I had read and enjoyed it and was tempted to buy it but forebore to do so. What would be the point ? It would just languish on my shelves until I donated it back to the library.
Two recent graduates of NJIT must be thinking along the same lines as me because they have started a book rental service, a sort of Netflix for books. For about $ 20 -25 a month( I forget the exact amount), subscribers can check out several books at a time and keep them as long as they like. Initially, there will be 80,000 books available. I wonder about the economics of this venture. Not only will it have to compete with the free public libraries, the mailing cost of books figures to be higher than that for DVD’s. Still, I wish them the best of luck, though I myself will not be a customer.