On Overpriced Books

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.


11 responses to “On Overpriced Books

  • Neopelagianus

    I found a book about Damian Domingo quite expensive.
    Sad for me, for I am quite interested in Filipino religious and secular art during the Spanish Era.

  • Traveler on Foot

    Ivan Dy of Old Manila Walks, who has an extensive collection of Filipiniana books told me to prepare for the annual Book Fair. He said that we can get great discount on Filipiniana books.

    Marie of Tradewind Bookstore in Silahis Art, Intramuros told me that in last year’s Book Fair, Angels in Stone by Fray Pedro Gallede originally sold for P2500 on regular days was sold for 500 pesos! I don’t know if this is true. But we save up and check this out this event some time in August or September.

    Pero bakit August and September lang. hindi na lng gawing whole year into… diba?

    • Monte Cristo

      Yup, that is so true!! to be specific the Manila International Book Fair which celebrates its 32nd year this September… It was my first time last year to attend such event and I was overwhelmed with the number of books from different exhibitors and book publishing companies na bagsak presyo talaga… That’s where I got my second copy of Pedro Galende’s Angels in Stone (2nd edition) as well as other coffee table books such as Javellana’s Fortress of Empire, Cuaresma etc. Hardbound editions all for P500 each. ^_^ Still no luck on the 1st edition 😦 Nakakahinayang lang kasi a month before the fair nakabili na rin ako ng Angels in Stone sa San Agustin Museum at regular price!! Grrr. Presyong turista! Nevertheless, I got it signed naman by the author. Kaya nga given the opportunity and the budget I try to acquire multiple copies or even hoard Filipiniana books. I think it is a good investment knowing that it will appreciate in a few years time. Kaya lang napaka short-lived ng Filipiniana books. Madaling ma-out of print. Buti sana if this is indicative that more people are appreciating our rich history and culture pero I doubt. Most philippine publications kasi are printed in limited quantities at usually 1st printing lang. Maswerte na kung may reprint. Madalas pa paperback at newsprint edition very vulnerable to foxing.. To Mr. TOF, I suggest that you really saved up for this great book event. One of the booths to really watch out for is BOOKMARK. Visiting their store is a ‘must’ to anyone interested in Philippine history, art & culture. Hoping you could rebuild your collection again in the future. With patience, strong determination and lots of money.. hehe :p Good Luck and God Bless! ^_^

  • De AnDA

    I was at the market the other day and was amazed that garlic and onion imported from our neighbors are cheaper than the homegrown. The same thing that has been happening to books. Who would’ve thought that books would one day be subjected to the unbalanced and unfair globalization – is there a way out? 🙂

  • pransis

    I can only agree with you Kuya Arnaldo. This is especially true with published literary works. One can literally collect anthologies of different foreign writers thanks to Booksale but not of Filipino writers. One has to really save to buy locally published works.

    To share one experience, I was only able to buy a book on the development of Philippine communities/politics because it was for sale. We cannot always rely on sale period, can we?

    I share the hopes of Sir Traveler on Foot: more Filipino books (that is, written by Filipino authors or about the Philippines) on Booksale. To have Filipino books in Booksale is not to demean them – the very mention of Booksale brings to one’s mind affordability. If majority of the Filipinos are to have access to our rich Filipiana books, they (i.e. publishers and distributors) should at least level the market prices so that majority of the Filipino can avail them.

  • traveler on foot

    hay naku… sinabi mo Nold. For some reason, yung Filipiniana books pa talaga ang pinaka pricey and hindi nag-mamarked down.

    After Ondoy, I am having a hard time rebulding my collection because most of the books I used to have nag taas na ng presyo.

    I wish Filipiniana books will be like books sold in Booksale. Really, I wish… I wish… I wish…

    • De AnDA

      @TOF – I think if you have an American best seller like “freakonomics” having the same price with the locally published books somethings wrong. Ours should be more affordable because we need Filipinos to start reading Filipino. Of course we want to support our local products but more than just a commodity, Filipiniana books can transform our nation – we can’t afford our youth not to read Filipiana – we need them to tune in now more than ever.

      • Pepe

        Filipiniana books that are being sold nowadays —especially those in English— are meant for foreigners, not for Filipinos. English-language propagators and their mercantilist partners focus more on music, fashion, and movies for the English-minded Filipino consumer. Education is just secondary.

        • De AnDA

          @Pepe- There’s some truth to what you said. Contemporary Filipiana has gone “stateside” but new books about culture, arts and history are getting more expensive. Parang ayaw ipabili sa mga tao. The price is prohibitive.

          • Traveler on Foot

            …books about culture, arts and history are getting more expensive. Parang ayaw ipabili sa mga tao. The price is prohibitive… true kaya tuloy ang Filipino culture and arts eh pang mayaman lang. Hindi dapat.

            I know one art dealer who owns a number of art galleries featuring young Filipino contemporary artitst who said “Our target market for all our artworks are just Class A citizens and thats it. tsk… tsk…

            The gold barrier that separate Filipino art and culture with the majority of Filipinos must be melted.

            • De AnDA

              I get that feeling all the time. That only those who can afford have the right to study the past, appreciate Filipino culture & arts – the unfortunate, the poor, the students, those who doesn’t have the resources will have to settle for less, like TV and movie for education, which as we all know is the diluted, mangled, twisted version of things Filipino.

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