A tall, skinny paperback to go

I regularly spend £2.30 on a coffee. It’s my little treat. I don’t smoke, I regularly deny myself cake, drink moderately, etc, etc. So my little frothy caffeine fix is something I don’t think twice about – even if it is a relatively expensive gift to oneself. What’s £2.30 here and there? Well, it’s actually £358.50 a year. (That’s if I’m treating myself three times a week, which I frequently do.) That’s, um, quite a lot.

Do I care that I spend over £350 a year on coffee? I should but I don’t. It’s a mini-perk, a little ray of sunshine in an average working or non-working day. And as an ex-smoker, I take pleasure in reminding myself how much I could be spending on something far more nonsensical.

On the other hand, if I want to buy a new paperback, I don’t feel as flippant about the £7.99 price tag. Often, I’ll end up buying three books just so that I can “save” money on a 3-for2 deal. I know this paperback-price tag wariness doesn’t make sense. A paperback is something you can treasure for years, whereas a coffee – as my husband delicately put it – gets pissed out in minutes. So why do I compartmentalise these costs? I can’t be the only one.

As an author, I know exactly how much hard work goes into a novel, and having self-published in paperback originally, I’m also aware of the production costs (cover design, editing, proofreading, printing, distribution, marketing – oh and um, creative writing plays quite a large part and an author has to earn a living somehow). So it’s not that a paperback doesn’t merit its price tag – £7.99 is fair enough. I don’t know what the mark-up is on a cappuccino, but I’m guessing it takes pence to make and there’s a far wider profit margin than that of a paperback.

So, what do I spend on paperbacks a year? A hell of a lot less than I spend on coffee, I should imagine. At this point, I should mention I’m not the speediest reader, generally plodding through a book every three to four weeks (the pace of the book usually dictating the speed at which I get through it, ie Gone Girl, read it in under two weeks, whereas I’m currently reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and making as much progress as Harold himself). But I digress.

I usually get given a few books for my birthday. I also buy a few from charity shops, and a few from Waterstones. (My nearest independent bookshop isn’t as local as I’d like, unfortunately.) I download an e-book now and again when I can wrestle the Kindle from my husband. The library is a little bit out of my way, and it’s usually closed at the time I’m most likely to visit – straight after the morning school run – so I rarely borrow books. All in all, I reckon I spend about £50 on paperback novels per year.

Wow. That’s nothing compared to my coffee habit. Hmm… This has been a revelation. I think it’s time to reduce my caffeine intake and increase my paperback consumption. If only there was an independent bookshop on my doorstep selling cappuccinos, they’d make a killing out of me one way or another. Well, potentially they could make £408.80 out of me every year…