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March 25, 2014
What would you say is the price of your time?
Beth ydy gwerth eich amser chi?

“If a book was to come with a token to allow you the time to read it, what would be the price of a book?”
Recycled-recycled book collage
(35.5″ x 23″)

Beth fyddai pris llyfr yn Waterstones, os wrth ei brynu, fel cerdyn llyfrgell wedi ei dycio i’r dudalen flaen bod cerdyn amser digidol bychan wedi ei lapio mewn ffoil yn rhoi hyn a hyn o unedau amser i chi ddarllen yr hyn yr ydych wedi ei brynu? Tybiaf y byddai pris The Pickwick Papers llawer drytach na’r pris cyfredol o £7.99. Dim ond meddwl.

Last year, I was working in a community art space in Newport, South Wales that was supported by the fab charity Healthy Planet. If you don’t already know, Healthy Planet is a charity that supports local communities by offering people stuff for free, which is always a good thing. 
The building that we occupied is a massive, empty warehouse that was once occupied by a now defunct bathroom & kitchen retailer, and was split between Artopsy (the local artists), Tin Shed Theatre Company and Mr & Mrs Clark and the Healthy Planet Books For Free shop. It was an amazing space, it’s former occupiers being in the kitchen & bathroom showroom biz meant that the warehouse was already split into great open plan studio spaces, with a huge floor area in the middle for the performing arts bod’s to rehearse, so was good to go as soon as we moved our paint brushes in. 
Now, onto this books for free shop. It was a veritable aladdin’s cave of books (all shipped in undercover of night, by the pallet by a crack team of truckers from destination somewhere or other) that were doing the planet a service by a). saving a hell of a lot of pulp paper from being dumped in landfill & b). offering people in the local area a wide range of literature (from ‘How to Groom a Poodle’, to first editions of Kurt Vonnegut novels, which I had *queue Mutley snigger) and a cup of tea, gratis. That’s right capitalists, gratis, free, am ddim, fer nuffin, ‘ere ave it, we don’t wan it, it’s yours, take one, hell take three.
Anycase je digresse. During my spell there, I embarked upon a rather ambitious art project that meant spending long spring evenings beavering away in my little studio, smacking myself on the thumb with hammers and what not, and during the odd tea break alone in the building, would peruse the shelves of the book shop picking up the odd first edition that I’ll most probably never have the time to read and soaking up the smell of the thousands of dusty old books.
It was at this point that I began to think about the pursuit of reading and how it has changed since the advent of the world wide web, from an activity of relaxation and enrichment, to the REM of scan reading a back lit screen in order to find a sentence to C+P into a word doc just after the mental implosion of a crash, then re-boot, followed by CTRL ALT DEL, login, start the fucking programme up again, relocate the hopefully saved post crash file, before C+P’ing it into the sentence, in order to embellish that otherwise cardboard dry binary file before sending it to your boss who won’t even read it. I remember the all too common discourse in the 90’s, from education to government, the media to the service industry, the white van man managing his VAT returns to the laughable inaccuracies of the BBC’s prophetic Tomorrow’s World programme, very well indeed. And the key phrase that they were all banding around like a rubber ball in a Tom & Jerry cartoon was ‘Technology is going to make our lives easier, we’ll all have more free time because we’ll be able to do things so much faster’. Hmmm, well, it really turned out that way, didn’t it. A lefty commentator, with the benefit of hindsight may now say that it was all a ruse in order to make us more productive in order to keep us busier by invading our homes and thus be more stressed in order to consume more in order to perpetuate this vicious cycle of jittery paranoid busyness.
So, I’m stood amongst all of these dusty books with a cup of tea thinking, these books are all for free, the internet has more free information now than you could possibly shake a stick at, even e-readers like the Kindle Fire give you most of the classics for nowt. We live in an age of super duper mega nifty intercontinental information transferal, but as far as I can see, we seem to be spending all of our time transferring the aforementioned data, not, as was prophesied, allowing ourselves (or being allowed) the time and space to relax and actually enrich our existences by sitting and reading books, too much to do and nowhere near enough time in which to do it. 
The question on the above collage reads ‘If a book was to come with a token to allow you the time to read it, what would be the price of a book?’ in English. What would the price of a book be in Waterstones, if when you bought it, like a library card, tucked in the front page was a little foil wrapped digital time card allowing you X units of time in which to consume your purchase? Something tells me that The Pickwick Papers would cost a fair bit more than the £7.99 it is currently priced. Just a thought. So much to do…

Must dash, got some forms to fill in.

For more information on Healthy Planet: