08 January 2009

On book buying

On Tuesday I confessed to replacing a book I already owned once. Today, I wonder if I wasn't too quick to buy another copy. I know I could've gotten it from the New York Public Library instead of buying my own. (I did try BookMooch first, but no dice on a copy in English; Portuguese, though, still available!) I had gotten into the habit of buying my book club books if I couldn't get them from the library in time, and unfortunately, it stuck.

I don't think I have a huge problem with book buying -- I can see from 11 Unbookening months that I bought 24 books, which doesn't seem like a lot to me -- but as was pointed out in the comments on Tuesday, it is some kind of folly to be buying more books when I have so many to read here. I do need a copy of LOLITA for book club, but I didn't necessarily need to own one.

And I just cashed in an Amazon gift certificate to preorder two books I'm eagerly anticipating that are coming out in May. I could have held off, even though with shipping I only paid $3.40 for them. And they make it all too easy for you to find more and more books you want, as Her Every Cent Counts discovered when she was checking on some prices for books she just bought at a brick-and-mortar store. Yup, it's the old "I saved money by spending money" trap. (She also mentions buying a book and then returning it after you've read it. I have done this, once. The guilt remains.)

On the other hand, if you see buying books as a slice of your entertainment budget, they can look like a downright bargain. Ann Zerkle at Get Rich Slowly analyzes the cost per hour of various forms of entertainment and discovers that compared to a live concert or even a movie, books are pretty reasonable. I also liked her story of going on "dates" with her husband to Books-a-Million for hours -- I have done the same, because sometimes the thrill of the hunt is half the fun. She doesn't totally convince me that buying is better than borrowing, but I acknowledge the experience of picking out a book is a treat in itself.

Also, considering the other forms of entertainment Zerkle prices out in her post, book buying really is one of my top expenses year-round:
  • I don't have cable, although I do have Netflix.
  • I go to concerts, but not as many as I used to.
  • When I go out, I rarely spend $50 in one go.
  • I did go to my first ever Mets game last year but it was worth every penny, both for my first time at Shea (albeit in the cheap seats) and to hang out with my friends; I'm hoping to make it a tradition.
  • This time of year I go to a lot of movies because of the Oscar run-up, but from February till May I'll maybe go once a month, if that.


Elizabeth said...

Don't feel bad about buying the book. It's worth it if you're going to read it more than once (and keep track of it ;P ).

I always bought textbooks (and that's a much, much, MUCH greater ripoff than a Dover thrift) so that I could write in them: for a book club book, you might want the same luxury.

Also, you can re-gift it. (And with your handwritten notes of what's important and why, it's unique and, dare I say, priceless?)

Ellen said...

It is nice to be able to write in books, something I admittedly don't do a lot with fiction but would be appropriate with the denseness of Nabokov.

Also, if I become famous my heirs could place my copy on eBay, or whatever the future eBay is.