DISCUSSION: Buying the Books (or, How Readers in Bookstores Are Like Kids in Candy Stores)

About a month ago, I was ogling some beautiful book covers wondering when I could get my hands on them. Namely: when I could buy them. I went to a bookstore in complete anticipation of buying Huntley Fitzpatrick’s book My Life Next Door. When they didn’t have it, I ended up buying three other titles that were on my wishlist; titles that I hadn’t even read yet, but books that had been getting great reviews in the blogosphere.

As I sit here writing this, I think of the many books that I’ve bought based on the assumption that because other book bloggers love it, then I should definitely love it — but when I bring them home and read them, they’re more meh to me than anything else. Then I curse myself for buying the book that I disliked when I could’ve bought something that I actually liked and would’ve read again and again.

I wonder why, when there’s a book that’s receiving rave reviews, a book that has a gorgeous cover, a book that’s by an author who’s supposed to be the next big thing — why I feel the need to automatically buy it? I mean, I’m all for supporting authors and buying their books, but when you don’t have a huge pile of money just for buying books, you have to be selective. 

Of course, sometimes it’s my own fault for just going into a bookstore to begin with — wandering around and buying books just because I feel like I can’t leave without something. A lot of these books end up on my shelf, unread for years.

This year I’ve read some awesome books — Wanderlove, Grave Mercy, Anna and the French Kiss — all these books that I desperately want for my shelf, even though I’ve read them already. These are all books that I want to read again, ones that belong to a series that I love, and ones that I want to lend out to friends and family.

In a way, I guess it’s like test-driving a vehicle. You find out that you actually like a car — it drives well, it comes with all of the proper amenities. Just like a book — making sure it’s written nicely, has a good flow, and has characters you can relate to.

But then I look at my public library. My library is awesome and gets a TON of new books in each week. They can do interlibrary loans, so if I don’t see a book on the website, I can always ask if any other library in the province has it. But I’m selfish and greedy. I love having my own copy of a book — especially when it just comes out and everyone’s talking about it. I hate getting put on a wait list for a book. Take John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars — once I realized that I was NOT moving on the waiting list, I bought myself a copy. It’s John Green. I already know I’m going to love it.

My problem right now is that I can’t even keep up with reading all the books that I end up buying. There are too many of them. Combine that with audiobooks, my library, and books won in contests and I’m woefully behind. But still, I just keep buying them.

In the end, I think I really need to convince myself to ONLY buy the books I really, really want — in this case, Fitzpatrick’s book, or Gretchen McNeil’s Ten, or Kenneth Oppel’s Such Wicked Intent, or books that are a part of a series that I own and am reading — and to give my library a spin with other books. When there is a new book being released every 30 seconds, it would take a LOT of money if a person wanted to buy everything that caught their eye. I’m realizing that, at this point in my life, I just don’t have the money to binge-buy books.

When it comes down to it, I spend hundreds of dollars a year on books. I buy way more books than I can actually read. I love buying them, but sometimes it feels good to have a system to buying — and it feels good to have a little extra money in my pocket that isn’t spent on books (you know, when you have to buy food or gas or something). It’s such a hard thing, but I feel like I really have to ask myself: Do I NEED this book?

Most of the time the answer is no — but still, nobody’s perfect!

How do you go about buying books? Do you only buy from authors you know you’ll love? Do you regret a lot of purchases? Do you use your local library? 

© 2012, Reading In Winter. All rights reserved.

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34 thoughts on “DISCUSSION: Buying the Books (or, How Readers in Bookstores Are Like Kids in Candy Stores)

  1. I think maybe this is part of why I stay away from reviews until I’ve read the book (I hate to admit it but it’s true). Aside from the fact that I want to be sure my own perception of the book isn’t influenced by the reviews I read, I want to decide what I want to buy based on my own criteria. If I see a book being reviewed EVERYWHERE then usually I’ll go check it out on GR or something, and add it to my TBR list. But I don’t actually READ the reviews, because I don’t want to feel the pressure of “everyone really likes this book, and now I want it so bad I’ll go and buy it” you know?

    And, of course, another reason to “test-drive” books, as you put it, is to be sure you’re putting your money where you really want it. If you’re not going to like a book, and you’re not going to read it again, then it’s much better to have spent a grand total of $.50 on gas to get to the library instead of $10 to buy the book – which you COULD have spent on another book that you’re dying to read over and over again (and read to your children, your children’s children, and strangers on the street).

    Good luck with training yourself to not buy books! It takes a lot of self-control but it IS possible. YOU CAN DO EET! And I’ll be here rooting for you every step of the way 😀

  2. Oh Kristilyn, I know exactly how you feel! They are all so pretty and of course I want them all! But I hate buying a book and then not enjoying it.

    My current answer is a book-buying-ban until I read what I have, but it’s so hard! I want so many great books, but I keep telling myself no!

    • I hope you can stick to it! Honestly, I own over 300 unread books so if I gave myself a ban like that I’d go insane! Though, I could try to cut down. A lot. 😉

      Good luck with your ban! Don’t fall prey to the pretty book!

  3. I’m pretty picky about books I add to my wishlist or that I buy. I have bloggers I trust for good, honest reviews, and I read their reviews to see what they liked (or didn’t) about a book before I consider getting it. Unless it’s a book by an author I know and love, I probably will let the book sit on my wishlist for a while before buying it. (And sometimes if it sits there long enough, I forget why I wanted it, and end up taking it off.)

    I’m not a big rereader, so using the library to test books isn’t a very good option for me. I’ve read it already, why should I spend extra money to put it on my shelf when I probably won’t ever pick it up again? I have used the library to get my hands on a book when I felt like I couldn’t justify spending money on a book, though.

    Somehow I still end up with quite a few books. But I’m okay with that.

    • I try to do that a lot, too. If I want to buy a book, I’ve seen lots of good reviews and I can’t stop thinking about it. Of course, I sometimes fall off of that bandwagon, but at least I’m trying.

      And wishlists are great — I’ve gone through mine a few times, only to take books off of it.

      There are certain books I’d love to reread — like the Stephanie Perkins books, or the first books in some of the series I love, or Emily Giffin and Lisa Genova’s books. But I really think I COULD get pickier with what I buy.

  4. I totally fall for the hype for books too (ahem Daughter of Smoke & Bone) had that book not been so raved about I don’t think I would have ever bought it. The cover really does nothing for me, and then now that I have read it, I feel bad for not liking it as much as everyone else. WHy did everyone love it but me?!?!

    I am so bad for buying books and then having them unread. I am seriously considering a ban. The library is a good option but I don’t do well with timelines. I don’t like feeling like I have to read a certain book at a certain time, I find it really diminishes my enjoyment of them.

    • There are books I’ve bought that everyone was like, “YES! THAT BOOK! THAT BOOK!” and then I read it and dislike it. I just feel so bad for the book! Then I have to give it away. It’s happened more times than not this year. While I’m all for donating good books (i.e. books in good condition) to the library, I’d rather keep the books I buy on my shelf.

      I hope to use my library a LOT more now that I’m working there. And really, the great thing about a timeline is that you can request the book again, if you don’t get around to it! Just because it has to be returned doesn’t mean you can never take it out again.

  5. Yes. I’ve learned that even though your friends and trusted reviewers loved or hated a book, you might feel the opposite. We may have common interests when it comes to genres and writing styles, etc, but it’s not a fail safe. I feel compelled to BUY all the hot books, too, but since I’m not in the position to do that as often now, many remain on the back burner until they are “old news” in the blogosphere. I’m usually pretty behind, but that’s ok. By then, I forget about all the hype and what people said, though that doesn’t usually effect my reading anyway.

    I’m glad you support your library!!! ♥ I use them for audiobooks but should use them more often. At this point in my life, with my own staggering library, I just don’t do it enough. :/

    • I really should wait after the hype dies down for a lot of books. There are some that I continue to think about and desperately want (like Ten by Gretchen McNeil), but still think I should get them from the library and try to work on the books I OWN rather than buying more and more.

      My library is AWESOME (& I’m not just saying that because I work there). We have a great audiobook selection and lots of great fiction titles. We can request from this library, a library in another city, and the Bookmobile, AND if none of those libraries has a book we want, we can search all of the libraries in Alberta and can do an Interlibrary Loan. I did a search of a bunch of new books coming out to see how many would be available through the library and was super impressed that only a couple weren’t available. And really, if I check a month down the road, someone could be getting them in.

      I love my library for audiobooks, too (though I also support Audible quite a bit!). Audiobooks can be so expensive!

  6. I’m a big library supporter. I just can’t bring myself to pay $10 or more per book, I need to eat xD. But! My library has a used bookstore where books are $1 or less. I loooove going and just buying whatever looks even vaguely interesting. Usually they are old books that I haven’t heard of, or books from authors I’ve read, but wasn’t particularly looking for. Those shopping trips satisfy my need to collect books, and then I still get to read the recent releases that I want.

    The exception to new book buying is smaller authors that I want to support. The main author I have this exception for is Jim C. Hines since he is a Michigan author (where I live) and from following his blog, I know he is a really great person in addition to a magnificent author. I don’t feel bad spending more money buying all of his books because the covers are gorgeous, I know I’ll love them, and I know that the money is (partially) going to someone I want to support.

    • That’s so true, Anya. When you have to make a decision between buying the books or buying basic necessities in life, I would think more times than not one would go for the basic necessities.

      And yes — I have a few authors whom I support or whose books I really love that they’re on my “auto buy” list. 🙂

  7. I’m blessed to have an awesome library system, and that’s where I get 99% of the books I read from. I simply don’t have the space or $$ to spend on buying books. The books that I do buy are usually a series of books (like The Storm of Ice & Fire series) or series for the kids (Percy Jackson, Harry Potter), or I’ll collect all the books by a favorite author (currently I have all Stephen King and Dean Koontz books). I don’t want a huge amount of books in my home (sounds weird – but I want to love the books I have). I want to re-read them – if they just sit there year after year – then it’s just clutter in my mind.

    • YES! It’s too easy to go overboard with the book buying and I think I’d rather be a person who shows off her books when all of those books have been read and loved. Too often, someone comes over and points out a book and I haven’t read it. That really has to change!

      I’m so happy you support your local library so much!

  8. I think we must all have this problem as book bloggers who are constantly bombarded by the newest hottest releases. At least, I don’t recall buying so many books before I started blogging. I’m with you – sometimes I just feel like I need to own a book, to have a beautiful physical copy to myself and to sit on my shelf. And it is definitely WAY to easy to overdo it. I don’t want to think about how many books are on my shelf right now that I haven’t read yet – especially the ones that I bought AGES ago. I really, really do try my best though to only purchase books that I loved or have a really good feeling about based on opinions that I respect. I should really be taking more advantage of the library too, though!

    • I don’t recall buying a lot of books before blogging either — I think I used my library a lot more then! That’s why I should go BACK to my old system. But sometimes, you’re right, a book can be so beautiful that you NEED it on your shelf! I think I need to be more picky, though. 🙂

  9. I try to steer clear of more than one review of a book that sounds interesting to me and then I seek it out at the library or paperbackswap. I hardly ever buy books that I haven’t read before unless it’s a sequel to something I’ve already read. I have a huge fear of buying a book and hating it.

  10. I have an addiction, I do not buy shoes or new coats and bags..but i need books, pretty books, talked about books, wishlist books, impulse books, a review I just read and gotta have books. Will I ever read them all? Probably not..but I will sure as heck try. I am a cover whore, a dystopian whore, an HEA whore. I covet all of my lovelies, I have a nook, I am addicted to netgalley and edelweiss, and goodreads. I go on book bans like most chicks go on diets; only to lapse at the next new release. I am a book addict chasing that next high: the one I get from a good tale, a breathtaking character and world-building that takes me away to a magical place. ~My name is Kimberly and I am proud to be a book addict.

  11. I was just telling my mom today how I’ve noticed that I haven’t bought any books recently, and how at peace that made me feel. I think I’ve finally realized what I can (realistically) read, and what I even want to read/own, so I definitely do manage to be more choosy at the bookstore. Plus, I’ve grown to love and appreciate my library SO MUCH.

    • That’s awesome, Alexa! I’m hoping to be the same way. I do love my library, but I’m so bad at just buying books and not waiting for them. It’s not like I NEED certain books right away — I have plenty of others I could be reading!

      I love that you feel at peace and finally know your limits!

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  14. A little late to this discussion but here’s my two cents none the less.

    I am totally with you on this. Since moving to Toronto and actually having access to a library with a great selection I borrow books more and more. I simply can’t afford to buy all the books I want to read and like you said it’s so disappointing to have spent the money and then not like the book.

    There have been multiple times where I get the book from the library, read it, LOVE it and buy myself a copy (recent example Defiance by C J Redwine) and I think this is a much better system. Plus it means I’m not filling up my bookshelves so fast. And if it’s an author I love or a series I’m in the middle of I can always make an exception 🙂

    • Yes! It’s so disappointing when the book turns out to be bad. Too much wasted money. I love that you use your library so much now! I hope that once I get through books on my shelves that they’ll go down in number. I’m sure there are plenty on there that I’ll read and not enjoy, so I could give them up (as a donation to the library!).

      Libraries are a WONDERFUL resource. I wish more people would use them!

  15. I try to only buy books I plan on reading in the near future, or a series that I already have, or an author I already love – because I know I will read these more than once. I ‘test drive’ new books or authors all the time from the library. However, I still seem to have a lot of book (5 shelves, double stacked!) But I am proud to say that I have read most of them! 🙂 (to be fair, some of the books on those shelves are the hubs books – which I have read some of, and some of them are the kids books – but most are mine!)

    • That’s GREAT that you’ve read most of the books on your shelves! I strive to be like you one day. 🙂 And test-driving books isn’t so bad — and if you don’t want to buy them, you can always take them out from the library again for a reread. It’s a win-win!

  16. I don’t think I can even scratch the surface of this question and my constant dilemma. I do lean on trusted bloggers for my picks. Usually I’m not disappointed, but occasionally I am and it makes me sad and feel defective.

    I’m currently trying to abuse my school’s meager budget. I balance buying books I’ve read and know the kids will love with ones that I want to read. Good system, huh?

    But I still want to own ALL OF THE BOOKS! Actually the worse feeling is reading a library or borrowed book and realize that you want to own it BUT you’ve already read it. The madness!

    • It makes me sad, too, when I buy a book I really anticipated only for it to suck. I really have to remind myself that my library is an amazing resource and take more books out from there.

      It’s hard to not buy all the books when all you want is all the books! And the great thing about reading a book from the library is that if you want to read it again, you can just take it out again! It’s great!

  17. I definitely buy way more books now that I’m a blogger, however I still mostly only buy books I’ve already read and enjoyed OR pre-orders of my auto-buy authors. The exception to this is used book sales or when I can get bargain books for very cheap.

    I think part of it is that I mostly buy books online. I can’t stand paying Chapters prices in-store when I know I can get them so much cheaper online, whether it be from the Chapters’ website or Book Depository. I think the last time I paid full price for a book at Chapters was in May when I needed to buy a book for an author signing I was attending and there was no time to order it. Before then it was probably years that I bought a full price book at Chapters. I’d love to support my neighbourhood stores (whether Chapters or the couple of indies around here), but realistically I can’t do that with the (lack of) money I’m making.

    I must admit I do have tons of books that I own that I still need to read, either bargain purchases or ones that I’ve won. I’ve been getting some read slowly but surely, but the problem is that there’s always new pretties being released each week. 😉

    • It’s way too easy to buy books these days. Even with an eReader — just one click and you have the book! I really didn’t buy a lot before I was a blogger, so I think I should rethink what I’m doing. I really would save a lot more money using my library a lot more and by doing what you do — buy the books for series I currently own and love, or books by my auto-buy authors.

      Though, when it comes to buying books, online is the way to go. The prices are so much better!

      It’s the new pretties that get me every time! Though I am going to try and be more diligent from now forward. It can be done!

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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