Thoughts On: Book Buying

“Thoughts On” is a monthly feature on thewasofshall where I give my (often rambling) thoughts on a topic relevant to reading, literature, or the book business. To see previous (and future) topics, click here. To participate, scroll all the way down.

Episode 8 of Book Riot‘s podcast Dear Book Nerd brought up some great questions about book buying, book abstaining, and guilt over where (and how) reader’s find and read new literature. As a librarian, I am a strong supporter of promoting the services and goods libraries allow, one of which is FREE BOOKS (I really don’t know how to underscore this more). I’m also, however, an avid reader, and most of the books I read are often new releases from living authors. And these authors are trying to make writing a full-time job – which means they need reader support in the form of books sold to make that happen.

So what’s a girl to do?

I often abstain from buying new books simply because of the cost. $20.00 + per book is just too much for me to spend on an item that I will most likely only read only once or twice. (Maybe more.) So, these are the books that I’d most likely borrow from the library. I have no problem buying new books on sale, though, so if this particular title was from an author I already liked (and knew I’d continue to like), I might buy it if I could find a good sale somewhere. (E.g., Barnes & Noble often discounts new releases 30-40% the month they come out.)

Add to this the fact that I also like supporting brick and mortar stores – places that might be independent businesses or trying to stay profitable (and relevant) in the advent of online booksellers and e-books. Most of the time, actually buying books depends on circumstance – am in in Target and there’s a sale on Cartwheel for a specific genre or author I like? Do I have time to stop into Used Book Superstore and browse? Is there a library book sale going on? Does Barnes & Noble have something relevant in the clearance section? (Etc.)

Purchasing books is not part of a routine, nor do I specifically set aside a book buying budget. (Although maybe I should.) I just get so much pleasure from browsing and seeing familiar titles in-store that oftentimes choosing to take one home is pure impulse. Could I give more thought to supporting authors and the books they write? Absolutely. Will I do so monetarily? Probably not. Sometimes, it all boils down to supporting authors in other ways – such as raving in one of my video reviews, talking them up to friends and family, or actually purchasing a copy of one of their books for my library (because, yo, I can do that). Maybe it’s as small a gesture as following them on Twitter and just saying out to the world, “Man, your book was awesome.”

Unfortunately, there’s no clear right answer about what book-buying circumstances trump others – and I think that Dear Book Nerd doesn’t try to answer the handful of questions that popped up from this one listener’s inquiry. (Although they did a pretty awesome job trying.) There’s just, perhaps, an unanswerable question best left in flux.

Have your own thoughts on book buying? Share them! Post them to your blog, link back to this post, and then comment letting me know!

August Book Haul

This month’s book haul was a rather productive one:

  • I found Shopaholic & Baby (a book that’s been on my to-buy list for quite a few years) for $1.00 at one of the grocery stores I frequent. (Randomly, I might add.)
  • I came across an ARC of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour on the free table at my job, thought it looked interesting, and then figured out that the title was already on my to-be-read list once I brought it home.
  • A first-edition signed copy of Telegraph Avenue was hiding in plain sight at my local Barnes & Noble and, when I brought it to the register, the cashier seemed super (duper) surprised that it was sitting in the clearance section and hadn’t already been sent back to the publisher. (To my knowledge, it was the only signed one there!)
  • I happened upon a rather interesting biography of Julia Child for my mum – can’t beat buying a Christmas present for $6.00 in August!!!
  • I splurged on The Book of Life. If you can believe it, I still haven’t read Shadow of Night, but I own both that and A Discovery of Witches in the same hardcover format, so I really could not justify not spending a little more to complete my set. (Also, I snagged TBoL at 40% off.)

Title by Author: MSRP / What I Paid

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  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe: $7.95 / $1.00
  • The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman: $16.00 / 75¢
  • Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella: $14.00 / $1.00
  • To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris: $26.00 (hc) / $0.00 (arc)

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  • Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon: $27.99 / $6.28
  • The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness: $28.95 / $17.37
  • Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz: $29.95 / $6.28

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The totally-worth-more-than-$6.00 signed page in Telegraph Avenue.

Bargain Bin Book Haul

If you’re a serial book buyer (like me), then you know the jittery excitement a used book sale can produce. There are the rows and rows (and possibly rows) of books once loved and then forgotten, ready and waiting for your finger to lazily sweep across its spine and be tempted enough by the title or the author or the color or the font or the size (etc., etc.) to pick it up and quite possibly bring it home. There are the sweaty palms you get just thinking about what kind of out-of-print gems or lingering title on your to-buy list (because we all have one) you’ll find inconspicuously sitting next to a mass market romance or last year’s best seller.

And then there’s the cold hard fact that, no matter the publisher’s sticker price, the highest you’ll pay for a book is most likely $5.00 (but probably only 50¢ – $1.00).

Because I work at a library, I almost always get first dibs on newly withdrawn books or off-hand donations being put on the for-sale cart (which is its own kind of torture). But there’s also the pure joy of walking into a library not-always-visited or finding out about a library’s much anticipated yearly book sale that really gets me going. I just love looking, even if nothing really catches my attention enough for me to buy it.

Aside from the two noted, all the books below were bought at book sales for under $2.o0 each – and they aren’t even everything I purchased. (I think I went into the book sale room at my library every day I was working, and actually purchased a full bag of books on three separate occasions. Oops.)

My haul

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Title by Author: Retail Price / What I Paid

  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: $28.95 / $2.00
  • The Selected Words of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen: $27.95 / $2.00
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer: $25.99 / $2.00
  • A Shortcut in Time by Charles Dickinson: $14.95 / $1.00
  • A Conspiracy of Tall Men by Noah Hawley: $14.00 / $1.00
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: $14.99 / $5.38 (@ B&N)
  • The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen: $15.99 / $3.59 (@ B&N)
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley: $8.99 / $1.00
  • Incendiary by Chris Cleave: $15.00 / $1.00
  • Crime and Punishment by Fodor Dostoyevsky: $11.95 / $1.00
  • Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne: $14.99 / $1.00
  • World War Z by Max Brooks: $9.99 / $1.00
  • Roots by Alex Haley: $2.75 / 50¢
  • A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood: 50¢ / 50¢

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I bought this book not only because I loved the film but because it’s been hanging around in the world since 1964! So cool!!

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I LOVE Winnie the Pooh, but I’ve never actually read any stories by A.A. Milne. The colors on this book jacket were beautiful AND there’s this gold-leaf edge on the pages. So, that’s awesome.


This book (and its jacket) looked so intriguing that I had to pick it up.

I seriously picked this up to read the summary because of the fonts, colors, and graphics. Such a simple design but still beautiful.

Here’s to happy book hunting!