I’m used to having to pay for postage — a couple of bucks, usually — for research items I receive through interlibrary loan. The fee seems only fair for the effort other folks go through to get me the materials I need for my current nonfiction project.
But I was a little taken aback this week when my local librarian informed me that Harvard wanted 50 bucks before they’d share their copy of something I’d recently requested for my work on Pasta. Now, I knew it was a somewhat rare book, and that only three libraries in this country even had a copy. But for $50, I’d expect the book to be hand-delivered by Harvard’s most recent commencement speaker. And I’d expect to get to keep it, too.
Two minutes after learning what the interlibrary loan approach would cost me this time around, I found the book through a UK dealer for 16 pence — that’s about 30 cents — plus Â£6.94 for shipping. I never would have thought that nearly $14 for postage for a single book could be considered a bargain, but that was before I’d received my Harvard education.