Are Books Luxury Goods?

Quirky'sReadsI questioned this in my last post and I think I might unpack it a bit more here.

Are Books Luxury Goods? I say Yes and No.

When I say luxury goods, I frame the book as a commodity, a thing that we purchase for pleasure (and in some cases, for life as they are the very essence of our being). I could break out my old anthropology texts and contextualize the book as commodity but that is a lot of effort and a lot of stushy old academic jargon (stushy in Bahamianese is a way of sort of making fun of upper crush, “high brow” culture) that is both boring and unnecessary.

Yes, they are luxury goods!

Part of me says they really are luxury goods. I say this because we don’t really need to buy them. There are certain things we need to survive with, such as food and water, but can fall under entertainment and therefore superfluous expense. When my father was unemployed he counted every single penny he spent and sometimes he would buy a book for himself. My extended family would thus descend on him like a pack of vultures, seeing his purchase as extravagant and unnecessary. Why buy a book when there is always a debt to pay off or groceries to buy? Bills? School fees? Unforseen magical expenses such as aliens landing on our house and crushing our car! Elephants running amok in The Bahamas and destorying the plumbing! Huge Unicorns gouging out windows!

So Yes, they are luxury items but also necessary and vital in other ways.

Me, being close to my father and in similar financial constraints, understood why he did this though. To him, books were an escape, a means of enjoying a different place and life for a moment (even if all he reads are terrifyingly thick NF WWII books about planes and bombs). I was proud when he sacrificed to buy a book because it showed that even when things were tough there were some simple pleasures.

So I say, yeah, books are luxury goods and we don’t need to buy them but there is something so beautiful and indulging about getting a book when you don’t need it but simply want to. Plus there is the pleasure factor and I have argued (unsuccessfully) in class before that pleasure should be counted in the budget or commodity chain as a need. I’m not talking an expensive pleasure (like taking out a huge loan for a Ferrari) but budgeting for books or a cup of darn coffee!

They’re educational too!

I’m straying a bit and that’s dangerous but my point is, though they are technically luxury items they provide comfort and pleasure regardless of one’s financial or personal situation. They are also education! I haven’t looked up any studies in particular but I remember reading stuff about books being good for you (I say this sarcastically, do not take that seriously, of course books are good for you!!!!!).

So I think I’ve strayed a bit from my original purpose but the point is simple: don’t let the haters get you down, a book is a luxury item but one that is totally necessary. It can be seen as a splurge or part of a budget, whatever your reasons I don’t think people should see a book purchase as “not-needed“.

How do you contemplate your purchases?



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
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13 Responses to Are Books Luxury Goods?

  1. As someone with very little money at the moment I would say for me, books are a luxury. I spend a lot of time searching around trying to get the most/the best books out of the little budget that I have each week for them!
    But then at the same time, they are also a necessity. What would the world be without books?! And not just fiction, all types of books! Even someone who doesn’t count them self as a reader will definitely have picked up a book at some point in their lives, whether it be in school or a recipe book to make some cakes. We need books in the world, so I totally agree with you: they are both luxury and a necessity!

  2. Jenna @ Rather Be Reading YA says:

    They are luxuries but they are a higher priority than other luxuries for me. I spend a lot of money on books…but I haven’t been to a movie theater since 2012 (and was averaging one a year — usually Harry Potter — before then). I’d rather buy books.

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  5. writersideup says:

    I’d say that owning many of the books we own are “luxurious” in that we don’t necessarily need to own them, but generally speaking, they are necessary 🙂

  6. prettybooks says:

    They’re considered to be essentials rather than luxury goods here in the UK, which is why there’s no tax on (printed) books!

  7. Oh man! I completely agree with you… While they’re luxury goods, they are also beneficial (and at least necessary to me) to my spirit! Right now, my economic situation is a bit precarious so I can’t really buy books and every time I can afford to buy one it gives me such a boost of happiness! Great post 😀

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