Some common concerns surfaced in reaction to my post Tuesday regarding reading for the mere pleasure of it. Most of us despair of finding adequate time to read, and many of us struggle with the cost of buying books. I’d like to touch upon the issue of cost before we set the whole aside and return to it in January.
Books are, as they should be, expensive. Many worthy and creative people are involved in creating a book and we support their labor (and guarantee more books) when we pay for them. And yet, since the cost can be prohibitive, many need to consider alternative ways of supporting the habit.
As several mentioned, there is the library. Libraries are local and free with wonderful selections staffed by people who love books. And yet I don’t use the library. I read slowly and rarely can finish a book in the library’s allotted time. As well, I like to make books my own (as Mortimer Adler encourages us to do) by marking them with a pencil. The good ones I like to keep on my shelf to share with others. Nevertheless, though libraries don’t work for me, they do for many, many others.
A second option obvious to us all is to find a trustworthy used book store in your community. The best ones will buy your old books turning your ‘old’ ones into ‘new’ (albeit used) ones through an amazing economic alchemy. Locally Brightlight Books gives me store credit for my old books which I then use when they have a book I want. I’m spoiled. If this model does not exist elsewhere, it should!
As a further option, I’m surprised that more people are not aware of Abebooks, an online bookstore ‘aggregator.’ From a single portal users have access to the stock of thousands of book stores all over the world. I will often find a used, hardcover, first edition for far less money than I can get the same title in paperback and new elsewhere. Some sellers are book mills, slapping stickers all over the books and shipping them out like a factory, and should be avoided (I have a list). But most are small booksellers who love books delivering them lovingly wrapped in brown paper like a present.
Surprisingly, buying sight unseen can be a joy. I once ordered a hardcover of Michael Chabon’s wonderful Summerland (my review here) for $5. What arrived was a pristine first edition copy, autographed by the author.
So, yeah, I’m a big fan.
Here is what we all need to do. With that Amazon gift card you get for Christmas buy a new book. But if the new book is too expensive, use the gift card to buy wiper blades for your car. (Amazon sells them and, admit it, you should have replaced those old ones months ago.) Then spend the excess from your car maintenance budget at your local bookstore or at Abebooks. You get books, your budget is happy, and you can see out your car window again. It’s all good.
Have a merry Christmas everyone!