Why is that books these days cost a lot?
I was at the National Bookstore the other day. I was browsing around the Filipiniana section ss usual and I got pretty excited when I saw Amado V. Hernandez’s “Mga Ibong Mandaragit”. I’m sure that the content is excellent, no doubt, Hernandez is one of our great writers honored with a National Artist title (pity that these days there are fake National Artist). But the material used, the paper and way it was binded is not really good quality. But the heck with it – I’m buying it because it’s a great piece. So I took it out of the shelf.
Then, I saw the price – 400 pesos! For a badly made paperback copy! Come on!
I’m not sure if Hernandez’s descendants still get royalties from his work. I sure hope they do. I’ve read “Luha ng Buwaya” – awesome work and since then I wanted to read more of his works. We’re lucky that in his lifetime he decided to write. But very few know him and this is sad because his work is one of the finest ever written in Tagalog. If I’m someone that make decisions on his amazing body of work – I would be thinking less of profit and more of how to get people aware of his writings.
You know young people interested in Filipino literature and history won’t spend a lot of money buying books. What they do these day is go online. If they do have money, they’ll probably spend it on something else. We really can’t blame them. Times are hard and these old reads are not really popular. We complain how the young people seem not to care about Filipino arts and history – well, price is one reason. Its crazy that these important Filipino literature are so damn expensive.
Our government really needs to start looking into subsidizing books about arts and history. Otherwise, only those who have money can collect and buy books. We want young people to start reading. Getting Filipinos to read, read, read is the goal but with the trend of prices going higher and higher there must be something that needs to be done with book pricing. If not, this will just be another case of the have’s getting more than the have not’s – education getting better for those who can afford it and worst for those who can’t. We just can’t let this happen.
Last year, I bought the book “The Trial of Rizal”. The trial transcripts was hand copied by Retana. It was then translated from the original Spanish by one of our greatest historians, the Jesuit de la Costa. It was a nice catch and one that I wouldn’t allow myself to miss. It cost me around 500 bucks. For a book its size, it certainly was no cheapo. Yes, its content of course is priceless, there’s no price tag for it but its such an important piece of our history I felt that more people should have access to it.
The historian Ambeth Ocampo realized the need to bring the prices down and started lowering the price of his books. God bless his heart. We just have to do it – we can’t afford to have history and literature go unread by our young people. Price should not deter readers but entice them to grab these books. We want to get everybody interested in Filipiniana once again. I understand that publishing is business and printing books cost money but I hope these people involved in the process can look into getting creative in finding ways to bring the prices down. Times are hard for businesses and most especially for families, and for most of us these days, books are luxury items you buy when you have some change to spare. We have to change this if we want to make use of books to once again transform Filipino minds, hearts and lives.