A friend of mine sent out an urgent plea a couple weeks ago, seeking ideas to help handle her “predicament” of finding at least a book a day that she wants to read.
Most serious readers, I imagine, are well acquainted with the “books to be read” dilemma. Acquaintances suggest titles, you see an intriguing review, a particular book is the current thing, one book leads to another…half-dozen. It takes very little time to build a sizeable stack of books to read next, and in just a couple minutes more it can become an unmanageable mess.
Let’s make one thing clear, right from the start. Wanting to read lots of books is not a bad thing. Collecting lots of books is not a bad thing, either, as long as you aren’t spending the rent or grocery money on them. But, alas, budgets and bookshelves and time for reading do have limits. Today, I’ll share a few things I’ve learned about managing the budget.
The first aspect that comes into play is deciding which books you should actually purchase. It’s not a good feeling to realize that a book you bought on impulse was not worth the $12.99 you spent on it - maybe it’s not well-written, not what you thought it was going to be, or just not your style. But now that you’ve read it, handled it, spilled a drop of coffee on it, you can’t return it.
My personal protocol is to read before buying, if at all possible. There are very few circumstances in which I’ll spend money for a book I haven’t pre-read: it’s a rare or somehow special edition; it’s written by an author whose work I’ve read extensively enough to know that I’ll enjoy it; or it was recommended to me by a friend who knows me and what I like to read very well. Most of the time, though, when I’m thinking about acquiring a book I don’t know much about, I either check it out from the library or borrow it from a friend. If I absolutely can’t find a way to read it for free first, I’ll buy the cheapest readable copy at Half Price Books, knowing I can invest in a nicer edition later if I want.
Once having made the decision that a book does, in fact, belong in your home or office library, you’ll want to get it at the most reasonable price you can find. Amazon generally offers good deals, but don’t neglect looking at other outlets as well: Christian Book Distributors has astonishingly low clearance prices on occasion, and Abe Books can be a good source for harder-to-find titles. For me, personally, nothing beats a good second-hand book shop. Even ordinary thrift shops, junk stores, and library sales may yield good finds, and ebay.com and estate sales can be a gold mine.
Note: You do have to be careful with ebay, Abe Books, and Amazon third-party sellers. Not everyone who is selling books knows anything about them. For instance, I’ve discovered that “first edition” is applied pretty haphazardly – it might mean “first Paraguayan edition” or “first edition in paperback” or “first book club edition” or “first edition with these particular illustrations.” Another thing to investigate carefully is “signed,” as it could be signed by the illustrator or editor or publisher’s spokesperson, rather than the author. Acquaint yourself with the terms of the book trade, and always, always, read the product description very closely.
One more thing that I’ve found to be important is knowing what I already have. With well over a thousand books in my house, I sometimes lose track and buy an unintentional duplicate. I’ve come up with two ways to combat this problem. One is keeping lists of what I have and what I want to read and what I’ve decided to purchase. (Several hundred books ago, I actually carried around paper lists in my purse; goodreads.com is a much better option for me now.) The other is taking shelfies before I head out to the bookstore, especially if I’m collecting a series or all the works of one author.
Of course, even though you’re being deliberate about your purchasing decisions, you will, at some point, find yourself wondering, “Where am I going to put all these books?” I’ll take a look at the shelf space issue next time. Until then, happy reading!