Ann Zerkle has written an interesting article “In Defense of Buying Books” (Get Rich Slowly, 30 Dec 2008; HT lifehacker, 3 Jan 2009) that made me feel good about my book buying habits. I do borrow from the University library, but for the really important books, a purchase is definitely a must.
I’ve never really calculated the cost per hour, but I think many of my purchases are definitely less expensive than Zerkle’s. I have a considerable number of technical books on databases, programming languages and Web development. Most of them weigh in about £25-30, and I reckon they would take 25-30 hours of reading, so I think they’re about £1/hour. Set them against a 2 or 4 day course, and they definitely pay for themselves many times over.
Novels at, say, £10, that take, say 15-20 hours enjoyable reading, are even better value at 50-70 pence/hour. But then classic novels will be reread several times, so the cost comes down considerably. The same goes for classic theology books. I’m rereading C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity again (prompted by Tim Challies’s Reading Classics, but way behind schedule at the moment). I reckon this is my third time round, and likely to take about 20 hours. My copy cost the princely sum of 25 pence (back in the mid 70s), so that’s costing me less than a ha’penny per hour!
Of course, the main thing about reading books is not the cost, but the sheer enjoyment of turning the page. A good television dramatisation doesn’t even come close to reading a well written novel up close and personal. I’ve just started 2009 with P. D. James’s latest offering, The Private Patient, to lighten up the week after a daily dose of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I’ll be reading, but only occasionally blogging it for Calvin’s 500th anniversary.
Now that I’ve salved my conscience on the buying front, it’s time to knuckle down to some serious reading.