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George Orwell's initial anecdote in "Books vs. Cigarettes" regards the opinion that books are an expensive hobby, one that is out of reach for the common, middle-class person. Orwell proceeds to use himself as an above-average consumer of books and summarizes the types and general cost of the books he owns; roughly 900, collected over the course of fifteen years. After estimating the cost, he posits that he has spent about £25 GBP per year on the books; a below-average reader would spend less. He then compares his book expenditures to his recreational expenditures:
With prices as they now are, I am spending far more on tobacco than I do on books. I smoke six ounces a week, at half-a-crown an ounce, making nearly £40 a year.
Forty pounds a year would just about pay for a packet of Woodbines every day and half a pint of mild six days a week -- not a magnificent allowance. Of course, all prices are now inflated, including the price of books: still, it looks as though the cost of reading... does not amount to more than the combined cost of smoking and drinking.
(Orwell, "Books vs. Cigarettes," george-orwell.org)
His essential argument is that books are a lasting resource, unlike cigarettes, which are used up and must be repurchased. Books provide continual usage until they wear out, which could take many years, and his spending £25 on lasting books every year is far less than the £40 per year on consumable alcohol and tobacco. Orwell also points out that library books cost significantly less, and one can sell a stock of purchased books for about a third of their original price, thus receiving the entertainment and eduction of the book while regaining some of the cost; this stands opposed to cigarettes, which are bought and smoked, after which both money and cigarette are gone forever.
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