In Defence Of Buying Books

We're big fans of public libraries here at Lifehacker and frequently share tips on how to get cheap books. Ann Zurkle logs the argument at financial blog Get Rich Slowly that buying books is OK. Ann goes on to detail the average cost of a variety of leisure activities people spend money on compared to her expenditures on books and the the uniqueness of the bookstore and reading experience. Ann uses books as an indulgence over other activities:

Even if the previous logic isn't convincing, consider that books are my reward. Instead of a big fancy meal or a special treat, I often get a book to celebrate things. A book is usually much cheaper than a meal at a fancy restaurant or a concert, is fewer calories than ice cream and lasts a lot longer than both!

Do you prefer to get your books through free channels like the library or nearly free channels like book swapping websites, over buying them from a bookseller? Photo by Adan Garcia.


    Whilst I can't say I'd buy a book instead of food if I had to make the choice, I do like owning a book if I'm going to put time into reading it. And given that I generally won't buy a book unless I know it'll be worth reading, not only do they make my bookcase look good, but I can also come back one day and read it again.

    Borrowing books from the library is too annoying to contemplate, and ebooks are just an abomination no matter which way you look at them. Good, old fashioned, books will never go away.

    I strike a balance between free books and buying my own. Nothing compares to owning a beautiful piece of work. Especially if you want to keep going back to it from time to time. My personal library, even though small, takes a place of pride in my living room and I rely on it whenever I have 'nothing to do'.

    So yes, I am all for buying books.

    Agreed. I borrow books too but books are the one thing I never regret buying. There's something about new books that makes them so much more enticing too.

    I am a reformed bibliomaniac; a decade ago I would be easily spending $100 a week on books. I used to justify it by telling myself that as a postgraduate I had a duty to my research (even though most of what I bought was tangential) and that anyway they were all secondhand, so I was getting a bargain.

    So like all manias, it was about learning balance. The final straw came when I was forced to put over half my library in storage; I realised after that I didn't miss them. When events conspired to sell them, I had the shock of receiving only a fraction of what I paid for them (despite the buyer commenting on their surprising condition for an academic collection). I was determined from that point on never again to be a slave to my particular peccadillo.

    That was when I rediscovered public libraries, because as a kid in a household without books I spent a lot of time there. Lucky for me, in the same way that internet banking enabled me to take control of my finances easily, so to did technology enable me to streamline my library experience.

    From that time on, my strategy was to always to look up a title on Amazon first to read the reviews, and then search my local library online catalogue for any book that peaked my interest. If the title wasn't on the shelf, I would request an interlibrary loan (unfortunately in the ACT where I know live, you get charged over $13 for this! So this is no longer an option). Finally, what I do now is use the library website to request a purchase, and keep a record of which I have requested as a private Amazon wishlist - that way I can trawl through it periodically and search the library catalogue to see if it had been shelved yet.

    If after all that, I read it and like it enough to read it again, then I will buy it, and almost always secondhand - either through eBay or Amazon or now Abebooks AU. Now I also have teh option of searching Booko thanks to Lifehacker AU!

    The bottom line is that I now treat my local library as if it were the anteroom to my own library. If a common title is on the shelf there, it's as good as owning it. I still buy books but they tend to be the kind that libraries won't usually purchase. I save space and money (especially when it comes to graphic novels) and focus on collecting the more unusual titles that give me greater pleasure and value for money.

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