Before I get into explaining the value of a book, I want to make a few things clear:
- I am not wealthy. Never have been, probably never will be. Unless I win the lottery or marry rich, which might still be in the cards for me (please, higher powers, help a girl out). Just keeping it real with all of you.
- I worked full-time while going to college as a full-time student and have been completely supporting myself financially since graduation. I know what it means to work hard and, consequently, I know the value of a dollar. I understand what it feels like to work long days for minimum wage and cry because it’s simply not enough—it’s never enough.
- I was a Creative Writing major in college. Writing is hard. End of story.
- I live in New York City which is, if you didn’t know, the most expensive city in the U.S. to live in. That’s right—I dish out loads of money every month to live in a closet-sized space that’s situated right on top of other people who also live in closet-sized spaces. Drinks and food cost you big time (even if you exclusively frequent happy hours and live off of dollar pizza slices) and really saving money is like a fanciful dream. It’s basically death to your bank account and your soul. But I love it here anyway and I will find you if you hate on New York.
- I work in book publishing. Now, I know what you all are thinking—of COURSE, she’s going to tell us to buy books. How BIASED of her to tell us to spend our money on them. What I need you to do is sit down and breathe before you totally lose it. There are two things you absolutely need to know: a) you don’t make a lot of money in publishing (like, at all) and b) the people in this industry do what they do because they love it more than most things in the world. Reading has, in some way or another, changed everyone in publishing.
So, now that you know all of those things about me, you’ll understand that payday is—and probably always will be—one of the most stress-reducing days of my life. When you live paycheck to paycheck, you quickly learn that when your bank account depletes, so does your energy and mental health. And when that direct deposit hits, it feels like you can finally breathe again. I’m sure many of you reading this can relate.
As much as I understand this hardship, this lack of financial privilege, I still believe that there’s room for books in everyone’s monthly budget.
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How many books? Well, it depends on the person, but for someone in my situation, I’d say one book per month. One book purchase each month demonstrates support while being both realistic and attainable.
I’ve never been good at math. Honestly, I still struggle with figuring out what to tip on a bill and what 20% off really means, and whip out my phone to solve even the simplest equations like two plus five. But what I do know is this: I like coffee. And I know what you’re thinking. How is that even remotely related to math or absolutely anything I just said? Well, one iced coffee a day from my favorite café in town costs me $3.50. $3.50 x seven days a week = $24.95 (if you think I checked my calculator for that, you’re 100% right). So, in one week, I spend close to the amount of money it takes to buy a new hardcover.
Now, I know buying good coffee is a simple pleasure in life and one that not many are willing to forgo—even those of us who really should. So, let’s say I skip buying coffee two days a week and instead, choose to make it at home those days (or make that free, kinda-terrible coffee at work). What does that save me? It saves me $7.45 a week. Multiply that by four and I’m saving $29.80 a month. And, yet again, I have enough for a hardcover that I can proudly display on my shelf.
Or let’s say I eat out three times a week and spend an average of $15 per meal (that’s low-balling, but let’s roll with it). That’s $45 a week that I’m spending on dining out. If I cut out just one meal in a week, I’ll be saving $15. That money alone is enough dough to buy the hot paperback that everyone has been raving about.
Shopping “smart” or being frugal when it comes to books all the time doesn’t really sit well with me. Sometimes, sure, go raid that library sale for some great finds. But first of all, as demonstrated above, it’s actually not that hard to save up for a book at full price. Second, when a book is discounted in online stores, it’s usually because those big companies can stand to lose money on books. Hey, go ahead and apply savings to every other area of your life—I do, as my mom is a veritable coupon queen, so I learned from the best. But when it comes to books, make an exception to the rule because of what they mean to you, you booklover, you. If you’re ready to kill me/need more convincing, read this amazing Twitter thread about the true value of a book and why it’s important to shop local.
Books are worth your money. I’ll say it again, for the people in the back. Books. Are. Worth. Your. Money.
There’s so much that goes into the creation of a book that happens behind the scenes—more than most people realize. It’s the writers, the editors, the publicists, the marketers, the illustrators, the designers—more people are involved in the process of making a single book than I could even list here. So much hard work is poured into every page, every sentence, and every word before it hits the shelves and gets into your hot little hands.
And we’re huge fans of libraries and always advocate for the support of them, so don’t even start with the “but I love my library” excuse. You can love your library to the utmost degree and still support your local independent bookstore and the book industry by purchasing a book from time to time.
Think about the impact that books have had on your life, the lives of your family members, friends, and the world. Think about all of the times you’ve gotten lost in a good story, one that prompted you to find out more about who you are and what your values are in life. Think about the capacity of a book to expand empathy and understanding, and think about all of the people who are better off because they found themselves in the pages of a book they never knew they needed. Think about the lives that have been saved through reading because someone identified with a story more than they ever have with another person or thing.
Books are a saving grace in a time of uncertainty. They’ve been the backbone of society for a long, long time—a common thread that weaves together people and their experiences. Books are things that should be cherished and loved and appreciated, now and always.
I guess what I’m trying to say is the next time you put a few dollars away or find yourself itching to buy something, consider a book. Maybe skip that extra after-work drink or go see a movie on a $5 Tuesday instead of seeing it another day. Visit a bookstore, take in the atmosphere, and feel the weight of a book between your hands—toy with the idea of making it yours, of giving it a home.
Working in the world of books has only caused me to believe in them more than I already did. I hope that one day soon, more people will be able to see that the worth of a book goes way beyond its two covers—it extends out from the page to our fingertips to everything we touch.
Featured illustrations by Nathan Gelgud