When I was a kid, I always thought why books aren’t free.

My mind usually flies away during class discussions. My brain is not entirely blank though for I’m most of the time, thinking of something else. considering that I have a habit of overthinking things. It just so happened that I never felt so present in class after a long time, when an old thought struck me one time in a class meeting I had for my major.

“Knowledge is a public good.” said my professor.

If knowledge is a public good, then why aren’t books free?

Public good, as an economic term, technically means goods or services which are non-excludable and non-rivalrous. These two characteristics particularly entail a commodity (a good or service) as something which can be consumed by anyone, without restricting someone else’ chance to consume the same good.

Take a highway for example. This one’s a classic. As my prof usually say, A road doesn’t become necessarily exclusive for a particular person, or a group of people, when they use it. Unless the person decides to eat the road while doing so. Same with air. If a company fails to pay as compensation for the pollution its factory causes, you can’t just pinch their noses and order them to stop breathing because they did not pay.

In terms of the question of why books aren’t free, we keep on persisting that we should gravitate towards the ideal state wherein people are educated (which could end the possibility of being misinformed citizens most of the time), but then education apparently has become something only for the privileged and to the people who can afford it. I actually should ask why education is not free, since that general thought fuels the query of why books aren’t as well.

I believe that literacy is power. This does not immediately mean that illiterate people are powerless or ignorant or anything of that kind. Besides, ignorance is a choice. I just think that literacy utilizes full human capacity. Literacy is a power that anybody can acquire. Well,  unless you live in Earth where people create this invisible line dividing themselves depending greatly on financial competence and economic statuses. If you’re not financially well-endowed, then apparently even the power literacy can give you, a power which is supposedly something non-excludable and non-rivalrous, is not something easily acquired.

(Hmm, I wonder why politicians just love uneducated voters.)

Of course, you don’t have to read every single existing book out there. Do not be blinded by false authenticity just because the words are printed out in Times New Roman, size 12. Choose what you read, and by choose I mean be critical of the things you choose to read. Books are your window to the world. Just like how a person’s eyes reflect the realness of a human soul. Just imagine how much it would cost you to see the world with the wrong lenses you choose to wear.

And then I go back to my first question; why aren’t books free?

This is not a rhetorical question though. I am honestly curious, and I am asking the question because until now, I still needed an answer.

I did not elaborate my question too much. It was plain and straightforward because I need not to elaborate why. I just learnt earlier that if you want to treat people maturely, you don’t need to spoonfeed everything to them, and just start trusting that they are mature and are well aware of it. Which for me, means cutting the crap, and ditching lame excuses masked by an articulation of complicated and unnecessary jargons.


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