Discussion: Should writing quality affect a book's prices?



Welcome to our new Discussion Monday forum where we'll be asking our readers for their opinions about current issues in literature, publishing and culture.

Many factors go into the determination of what a book will cost, but should quality of writing be one of them? Should classics like Wole Soyinka's "The Man Died," cost more than President Goodluck Jonathan's collection of Facebook messages, "My Friends and I?" Or a self-published tome by an unknown author?

Our topic today was sparked by a discussion on the site thenervousbreakdown.com. We would love to hear your opinions.

Comments

  • Aregbesola is doing a lot to smear the image of ACN and indeed the Yorubas. Wake up in the moinrng and tune in to Osun TV, all you hear or watch is in vernacular. Nothing bad in deed but what of our children? Will WAEC or NECO be set in vernacular? The station does not link up with NTA for the national news at 9pm. Also, all you hear and watch are visits of religious leaders to the governor of the state of Oshun. AREGBESOLA should please remain in Oshogbo and focus on the state. He should allow the northerners and Lagosians to rule themselves. His public presentation is a shame to the state.

    Posted by Chaudhry on August 07, 2013
  • I think the issue comes down to who decides what constitutes quality writing, however. Unlike Ankara cloth, literature is highly subjective and there have been many instances where the quality of a peice of writing was only decided on long after the author died and society’s tastes changed. Right now, the buying public essentially dictates prices and they have not shown a willingness to pay more for the works of Shakespeare than the “Twillight” series. If that were to change, how would that happen? Should we institute a panel to determine what constitutes good writing? If so, what would be it’s objective criteria ?

    Posted by chinelo on April 20, 2011
  • I don’t think there is a need to create classes of writing (or writers) in terms of quality. That would be appallling, in my view. The key issue here must be accessibility. There are well known excellent writers whose books are not expensive. Accessibility must be the key and that means selling books at prices that the common man can reasonably afford. This is even more important in Africa where we are still trying to convince people to read fiction!

    If a writer is good, buyers will vote with their purse. But authors should not overvalue themselves as to only target the elitist consumer. Lately there seems to be a trend among some authors to target only elitist PR machines and publishing houses. Good literature should be accessible to everyone irrespective of their bank balance.

    Posted by Adura Ojo on April 21, 2011
  • Well said. Yet, as regards criteria and whether the public readership is apt to accept or decide on a literary work based on certain suggested yard-sticks, I’m afraid—that effort lies mostly in the hands of publishers; particularly because they hold the greatest job of been responsible for what their readers get, after all might have been decided. In other words, the final duty of steering the crowd of readers towards the ideal, literary utopia, I’m afraid—must be their expected choice. All the same, I hardly think a panel of some sort is needed to decide on the yard-sticks with which to judge a piece of writing. Possibly though, it might be needed—if the society in case is one that have finally lost its sense of worth, irredeemably. If that is the case, which I strongly doubt it is, then among other possible cautions, a re-thinking is needed regarding works that in all truity, portrays a society and its host of applicable realities. I think readers should be able to dive into a book and feel both the illusions and realities of life in the same experience. I understand that should be one of the major impressions of a good literary work on the mind. If in any case, there exists reasons for a piece of writing to do other wise, then I think publishers might be playing their roles a little dispassionately. Readers have shown to adapt to what publishers are able to offer them. If a publisher accepts nothing else but original and purposeful writings, their readers will definitely come to know them for that. And that is how integrity comes about. That is how real-worth prevails and stays recognizable. The question is how many publishers are ready to go this route, because we all know too well that good writing (just as good-anything else) isnt always, if ever, ubiquitous.

    Posted by Chukwuka Omenigbo-Nwafor on April 22, 2011
  • I strongly believe that the content of a written work should be able to determine its worth, among other things. Surprisingly, I just concluded work on a paper that treated this topic and it still marvels me to realize, that today, many of the so called “best sellers” albeit been poorly written, go at the same price with monumental works of literature like Soyinka’s. Its a very appaling thing to discover. And in Africa, the case isn’t any different. All the same, I do believe that given the extreme sensibility, not mentioning the obvious historic and poetic audacity found in Soyinka’s “The Man Died”, one shouldn’t find it any hard (as to) deciding whether G.E.J.‘s “My Friends and I” should go at the same price with the other. I believe the later work also holds its own in many ways. Yet truth be told, quality we’re aware, does come in variations just like human minds, admittedly. Even so, this unnecessary indifference and contempt we bring with us when deciding on literature, surprisingly, is suddenly lost when we have to decide on lesser things like fashion and even, daily necessities. Yet we’d hardly give in to this. I think my point is clear. If we can tell and agree that a piece of Ankara costs so and so due to the quality of its fabric, then a piece of writing with an undeniably quality-content should be able to hold its own, worth-wise. Period.

    Posted by , Chukwuka on April 19, 2011
  • I strongly believe that the content of a written work should be able to determine its worth, among other things. Surprisingly, I just concluded work on a paper that treated this topic and it still marvels me to realize, that today, many of the so called “best sellers” albeit been poorly written, go at the same price with monumental works of literature like Soyinka’s. Its a very appaling thing to discover. And in Africa, the case isn’t any different. All the same, I do believe that given the extreme sensibility, not mentioning the obvious historic and poetic audacity found in Soyinka’s “The Man Died”, one shouldn’t find it any hard (as to) deciding whether G.E.J.‘s “My Friends and I” should go at the same price with the other. I believe the later work also holds its own in many ways. Yet truth be told, quality we’re aware, does come in variations just like human minds, admittedly. Even so, this unnecessary indifference and contempt we bring with us when deciding on literature, surprisingly, is suddenly lost when we have to decide on lesser things like fashion and even, daily necessities. Yet we’d hardly give in to this. I think my point is clear. If we can tell and agree that a piece of Ankara costs so and so due to the quality of its fabric, then a piece of writing with an undeniably quality-content should be able to hold its own, worth-wise. Period.

    Posted by Chukwuka Omenigbo-Nwafor on April 19, 2011

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