A recent topic of discussion over at the author John Scalzi’s blog was author’s royalties. I would like nothing better than to support my favorite authors by buying either new dead tree editions or ebook editions of their work, which is how you put money in their pockets. In the best of all possible worlds, I’d be living in my dream house which would have, among many other things, a large library with floor to ceiling bookshelves, and I would buy new hardback copies of all my favorite authors’ works hot off the presses. Alas, the last time I checked, this is not anything remotely like the BOAPW, and there are months when the elastic on my budget is strained to the snapping point.
I left a comment on Scalzi’s blog post to the effect that when you are on a fixed income that’s only about 4 inches above the poverty level, as I basically am (and the Federal Government has put a cap on how much money you are allowed to make working part time to try to supplement your income, so you’re pretty much stuck there), your entertainment budget is severely restricted. When the price for new books ranges from $17 to $26 for hardbacks, $15 to $20 for trade paperbacks, around $8 to $10 for mass market paperbacks, and from $8 to $15 for ebooks, there are months when buying even one ebook or new paperback book would shoot my budget in the foot. On the other hand, I can get as many as four used paperbacks from Amazon for $16 bucks, on which the author makes zip. When all is said and done, most of my expenses, like rent, phone, cable, and utilities are fixed amounts and the bottom line is, I can buy more books and less food, or more food and fewer books.
Several days after I left that comment on Scalzi’s blog, I received a comment on this blog asking for an email address so they could contact me. I started not to provide it because, you know, spam. But then, I decided I would answer with an email address I don’t use all that much. Imagine my surprise when the person emailed back that I shouldn’t have to choose between books and food, and had sent me an Amazon gift certificate for a modest amount to apply to my book budget. I was surprised and touched by the unexpected generosity of a complete stranger. Now and again, life sees that you get some sugar to put in the lemonade you’ve made with the lemons life has handed you.
As it happened, last year there had been a bit of a dust-up between the US Government versus several book publishing houses and Apple’s iTunes. The Department of Justice had slapped them with an antitrust suit alleging they had colluded to inflate the price of ebooks. Amazon settled out of court and as a result, I received a credit to my Amazon account to the tune of a nice little sum. Between the gift certificate and the settlement, I was able to get several books that had been in my “save for later” list for a while now as well as preorder two that were coming out April 1 (including C. J. Cherryh’s latest Foreigner book!). I just finished one of them, “The Manual of Detection” by Jedediah Berry. It was a strange book that I would describe as surreal, Kafka-esque detective fiction meets The Twilight Zone. Still, I gulped it down and enjoyed every bite.
Another bright spot in this vale of tears is that whenever I go over to sit with my dad so my mom can go out, she usually slips me $35 or $40 when I leave (about what it would cost to hire someone from a home health agency to sit with him) because, let’s face it, my mom is a class act. Ordinarily, I set aside the lion’s share of this windfall for contingencies (something breaks and/or needs to be replaced, or I need something I don’t already have, or the car needs gas, etc.) and use the rest to supplement my entertainment budget, i.e., buy books and maybe rent or buy a film.
However, since I’ve known for sure I was going to move, all my daddy-sitting money since the end of February has been going toward the move. I’m going to need shelf lining paper, a dust mop (only the bedrooms have carpet; the rest is laminate flooring), a bunch of those little guides you put on the bottom of furniture legs to prevent them from marring a wooden floor, a non-skid mat for the tub/shower, a sheet of pegboard and some hooks, one or two sheets of masonite and/or rigid foam insulation to light- proof my bedroom window, a couple of 2 x 4’s to build a riser for the carved wooden screen (see above) that’s going behind the headboard of my bed to hide where I’ve covered up the window, etc. I’ve already used part of my “petty cash” to buy two throw rugs, and two sets of drapes, all on sale, and yesterday at Walmart I got a comforter set and matching drapes, as well as a double rod to hang them on ($2.47 — for two 84 inch long curtain rods + fittings!) and a curtain for the kitchen window. All these items were “drastically reduced” or “closeout” items, so I made out like a bandit. I’m only taking one set of curtain rods and drapes (see left), and the living room curtain rod with me when I move. The rest I’m either selling or leaving. I feel pretty much honor bound to leave some kind of cover over the windows, like that’s going to deter somebody from breaking in and stealing the appliances. But then, after I mail the keys back to the landlord, that’s not my problem anymore — and good riddance!.