Monday, May 11, 2009

Books v. Cigarettes

The new budget has been announced and my local newsagent now charges £3 for a pack of 10 cigarettes.
This seems like an appropriate time to introduce a collection of essays and articles by George Orwell published as part of Penguin's Great Ideas series under the title Books v. cigarettes. In an article written for the Tribune in 1946, Orwell estimates the financial cost of reading and concludes that it "...does not amount to the combined cost of smoking and drinking".
That may all be good and well for 1946, but is it still true of twenty-first century Britain?
"Working on the same calculations used by Orwell in his piece, I estimate that I have spent approximately £7,000 on books over the last 15 years. (I have used an average price of £9.99 - though some of my books cost considerably more than this, a great deal more would have been far less). This works out at about £480 per year and if I include subscriptions to magazines and the amount I have spent on shelving and storage this figure rises to within the region of £550. Comparatively, if I were to smoke a pack of 10 cigarettes a day every day for a year, the cost would be roughly double at £1,095 - and that does not include drink, the thought of which sends my head spinning.
What do these figures actually tell us? Well for one thing, if you are a reader and a smoker, giving up cigarettes would allow you to by a hell of a lot of books, while the converse isn't necessarily true." ICA

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