Why were books expensive in the 1800s? Several factors led to this high cost. The Availability of cheap paper, the threat of piracy, and the influence of hawkers. However, none of these factors was the sole cause. Other factors such as piracy and Logan’s books may have contributed to the high cost of books. To answer this question, let’s explore some of the factors that affected the price of books.
Availability of inexpensive paper
During the 1500s and 1600s, the price of paper barely changed, even though the price index for most other consumables went up by 63%. It was expensive to buy Venice paper and royal paper. The prices of other sizes, qualities, and types of paper were even higher. While laborers and aristocrats had access to expensive paper, most of the population had little need for fancy papers.
Influence of piracy
The Amarna Letters document correspondence between rulers of Egypt and the Near East. In them, the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten accuses the king of Alasiya of aiding Lukka pirates, who raided the coastal cities. This correspondence may represent the first evidence of piracy. Piracy in the 18th century was not as widespread as it is today, but it still caused losses for publishers.
Piracy was not an exclusive phenomenon; other publishers usually respected the publisher’s claim to the title. Piracy, however, was sometimes tolerated and punished by shaming and commercial retaliation. Piracy resulted in the printing of private editions of a book by colluding reprinters at ruinous prices, and in some cases, at a loss. Many British authors referred to the whole industry as “pirates,” and publishers in America used the word internally to describe those who deviated from trade courtesy.
Influence of Logan’s books
The impact of Logan’s books on the cost of book prices in the 1800s can be traced back to the development of printing technology. During this period, printing costs dropped dramatically due to the advent of cheaper paper and mechanization. Also, new methods of transportation allowed books to be distributed far and wide. These changes had a direct effect on the reading public. Many people now rely on public transportation to get to and from work instead of purchasing expensive books.
However, not all prices were popular and some were rarely used. During the nineteenth century, books were typically sold at book trade prices of twos and sixpence. In 1853, these lower prices represented just 3% of the total number of titles available for purchase. With this newfound prosperity, the price profile of books began to change. By the 1850s, publishers were issuing books that were already bound and ready to sell.
Influence of hawkers
Itinerant vendors were known as hawkers in the early 1800s. These vendors typically sold goods door-to-door and advertised loudly. They served an essential social and economic role. In cities, they were often regarded as nuisances. But these vendors played an essential role, including selling a variety of consumer goods and providing a vital service for the poor. The book’s chapters on China, England, and Singapore cover many aspects of bookselling.
One of the earliest examples of this phenomenon was Elizabeth Hart. Elizabeth Hart was born into a poor labouring family in Chelsea, England. Her father had died when she was only 14 years old, so her mother opened a marine dealer’s shop and began collecting second-hand wares. Elizabeth Hart sold her second-hand books and scrap metal, and her wares fetched a high price.
Influence of novel prices
The 18th century saw the rise of circulating libraries, which greatly affected the distribution, price, and format of books. At one shilling a volume, a novel could now be bought by an average consumer for less than $700 CAD. But not all prices were equally popular, and some prices were rarely used. During the nineteenth century, book trade prices of 2s6d, 3s6d, 5s, 6s, and sevens6d were not uncommon. By 1853, only 3% of the total market was dominated by lower-priced titles.
As the demand for books increased, the price of books fell, bringing them within the reach of the masses. The US achieved its highest literacy rate in 1861, and by the turn of the twentieth century, nearly 9 out of 10 citizens were literate. Today, nearly total literacy reigns in the U.S. As more people became educated, the printing process underwent a series of refinements. Photographic plates and typewriter-like keyboards made reproductions of books much more affordable.