On buying books

The December issue of The Atlantic had an article about Ann Patchett (author of State of Wonder) opening an independent bookstore. She talks about having wonderful childhood memories of small bookstores and how people long for that. Many others say the same. But I’ve never understood why. (I kind of think that’s why I never ‘got’ You’ve Got Mail. I enjoy the love story, for sure, but Meg Ryan’s speech about bookstores? Don’t get it.)

What I remember about the local bookstore growing up is that it was welcoming, cozy…and so expensive I had to stretch to buy two books a year. It wasn’t an upscale store, but $10-$15 (I always bought paperbacks) is a lot of money to a kid! I didn’t want for a lot as a child, but I certainly didn’t have much cash. I always longed to buy books, but on those occasions I actually did I almost felt sick even as I tried to pick one out. I knew I would finish it quickly and think:  was that really worth $10 for two hours of entertainment?
Maybe it’s because I’m a fast reader. Maybe it’s because I prefer to read mysteries and once you know the ending, there isn’t much point in reading again. There were certainly books I loved and read many times and I was thrilled to receive books as gifts, but I rarely saw them as a good use of my limited funds.
The library, though, oh, the library. THAT is where my happy childhood memories of books are. I get nostalgic just driving by it when I’m in town. The library is where everyone knew me and what I liked to read. The library is where I discovered Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High. And the teeny church library! I loved that place so much. They had all these books about a girl, much like Nancy Drew, I guess, who solved mysteries. It’s bothered me for YEARS I cannot remember the name of those books. I’m sure they were Christian books, but I liked that they weren’t overtly so (you know how some books, it seems like the actual plot doesn’t even matter because the whole thing reads like God! Pray! Bible! Jesus!).
Then there was the school library and the thrill of reading for POINTS. The proud feeling when you read “above grade level.” The row of Little House books. The Boxcar Children bookcase. Those early reader books about Ned the detective and his dog I read the entire shelf of in first grade (gah! What were they called??)
I’m well aware of the fact authors have to make a living. I’m selfishly happy other people buy books. I’m kind of terrified at the thought they might stop. I don’t doubt book prices are reflective of what it costs to produce them. I’m not saying they need to be lowered. Just that I…can’t afford it. I read 120 books last year. I would happily pay a yearly subscription to the library. (Actually, I should. I should donate every year.) (Though they do get about $5-10/month from me in fees and fines.) I buy some of the books I read, of course, but very few. The majority of what I buy is used anyway, so I don’t think that counts. I’m not really sure what to do about it. I do want to support my favorite authors, but…120 books!
Do you buy most of the books you read? Or do you have your library card number memorized, like I do?

P.S. Ginger wrote a similar post back in November that I found interesting.

Comments

  1. I absolutely have my library card number memorized. And now that my library has a bunch of ebooks I can check out from the comfort of my parents’ couch 400 miles away in a different state…WIN. I actually even have my Dad’s library card (which he never uses) in my wallet so if my library doesn’t have a particular ebook I want I can try their library in Minnesota to see if I can check it out to my iPad from his account.

  2. I borrow as much as possible, between real books from the library and ebooks … from the library. I also read very fast and it just doesn’t make fiscal sense for me to pay for every book I read. I do buy books on special through Nook or ibooks (.99-4.99), and if I really need to read a sequel I’ll shell out the money for it but I can usually wait.

  3. I bought for a bit when my iPad was new but now I’m all library.

  4. Library card memorized for sure. I have bought a few books recently for my Kindle, but for the most part I try to loan those as well. I hate reading books over (or watching movies over) so it makes no sense for me to own books (or movies).

  5. I rarely buy books anymore, but my mom always gives me Amazon gift cards, for Christmas so I use those. I use the kindle check outs and check out physical books as well, and I’m able to keep up a pretty constant stream of what I want to be reading. Every once in a while I will buy a book – if I need it for book club and won’t get it from the library in time, or if it’s something that I’ve been looking forward to, like a sequel.

  6. Total library card memorization.

  7. I’m right there with you all. I don’t actually have my card memorized (because I just recently figured out how to work the ebook part) but I’m well on my way. I rarely buy books, and when I do I usually buy used. I only buy new if it’s something I REALLY want, like a sequel or a book for a plane trip or something.

    Also…the Christian mystery books, could they have been the Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard? (Mandie and the Secret Tunnel)?? I had to look them up recently, because I remembered reading them and couldn’t remember the name. Did you ever read Trixie Belden?

    • Yes!! The Mandie books! I’m so glad you remembered that. I haven’t ever read Trixie Belden, but I’ve heard of them.

  8. I’m another one who knows her library card by heart. I’m as frugal as you, and I just adore the library. In truth, I will buy a book if I adore it and want to re-read it, but I use the library for almost all my reading needs.

  9. Yes! I feel like such a cheapskate because I used to just buy books on my kindle for 6.99/7.99 a pop..but at some point I rediscovered the library and now I can’t talk myself into even reading a book that I can’t get for free somehow. I support authors…I WANT to buy the books..but I just can’t justify the cost if I can read it for free :)

    • I know – I always feel bad when scheming as to how I can get a new release or bestseller for free. But I don’t want to pay $20!

  10. How DO you read so fast? I wish I had that talent!

    I use the library whenever possible (but end up having to buy some of the books chosen by my book club). If I’m not in a rush to get it, I request that my library purchase it, and they’ve always done so when I ask. I LOVE my library.

    • I read too much! Or, at least, last year I did. I’m trying to take it easy this year. So far, I’m apparently diverting book reading time into Candy Crush. So…not better.

  11. I have my library number memorized. But I also buy books. Not a lot. Not all the time. But I don’t fret about money spent on books. I try to buy things I’ll reread or will gift. I buy books as gifts a lot.

  12. I love the library. I’m also totally addicted to buying books. I am a big re-reader, so I prefer to own my favorites. Plus, all the books in our house growing up is a big reason I read as much as I do. Often if I was looking for something to do I’d just scan the bookshelves until I found something that looked interesting (my parents have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 books) and sit down and read. I want that for my kids, as silly as it seems writing it down.

    • That doesn’t sound silly! I worry sometimes, because I read so much on my phone, that my kids won’t know I’m actually reading books. It’s good to have physical ones around. We go to the library a lot, so hopefully the experience of choosing from hundreds will stick with them.

  13. Oh my god, mama, you read 120 books last year?! I am so impressed! I feel like I have such limited reading time now that I’ve always got three or four books going, and it’s been a long time since I read a novel for sport. But, I love the library. What a resource. And I love independent bookstores, because like all independent stores, the people who run them know more, care more, and do more to help you find what you’re looking for, and to keep you coming back for more. That said, books are crazy expensive, and I usually buy used, if I can, and if I am sure I want to buy. But I try to support the local businesses whenever possible, so that our world is not one day run (or not as soon anyway) by corporate giants. Love this post; beautifully written, well thought-out, and real.

  14. PS. I kind of do pay a yearly subscription to our library, in late fees. If I could get it together to return books on time, I’d just make a donation, and then I could write that off! Alas, I’m not nearly that organized.