Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 23, 2017

Another meme: #Book Buying Habits

I came to this meme at Book Mongrel via Booker Talk, and it interested me because of the prevalence of ‘book buying bans’ that have sprung up lately in the LitBlogSphere. I may be a bit evangelical on this topic, but I firmly believe that book culture will die if people don’t buy books because there will be no incentive for authors and publishers to produce them.  This is especially important for authors and publishers of Australian literary fiction because ours is such a very small market always under pressure in a globalised economy.  Yes, there will be authors content to struggle for exposure in Amazon’s self publishing swamp but that is not where the great books of our time will be found.  Yes, shelf space is an issue, and so is the family budget, and yes, we should read the books we have… but I am a Buyer of Books, and always will be.

And since I saw somewhere recently that nobody really knows what makes people buy books, I thought it was worthwhile to share what makes me buy them, even though I might be the only person in the universe who has these reasons.

Where do you buy your books from?

From independent bookshops that I want to stay in business, because they stock and bring me news about my kind of books.   F2F I go to bricks-and-mortar shops like my favourite Benns Books in Bentleigh, but also Ulysses Bookstore in Sandringham.  (I used to go to one in Hampton but they have gone downmarket with lots of trashy books and the place is full of noisy children.)  The Readings chain sends me a monthly newsletter and I buy from them online, but lately their newsletter has been promoting so many misery memoirs and novels derived therefrom, that to my dismay I often can’t find anything to buy.  For other books that I hear about online from my BookBlogging network (mainly translations not available in my bricks-and-mortar bookshops) I used to use the Book Depository but now I use Fishpond because (a) it’s not Amazon and (b) it has free postage and (c) it started in New Zealand and is a source for NZ books, and now it operates in Australia.  (#Transparency I have an affiliation with them here on this blog, see my About page).

Very occasionally I have an impulse buy for the Kindle, but I use it so rarely that #blush I tend to forget about these books and not read them.

Do you ever pre-order books and if so, do you do this in-store or online?

#Blush: not books… but I have been known to put in an online order for the latest Game of Thrones DVD and Un Village Francais as soon as I know the release date.

On average, how many books do you buy a month?

Averaged over the last 12 months, I spent $140 a month.  That’s an average of 4 or 5 books (bearing in mind that it includes the occasional Op Shop Find and an expensive first edition or two.  It equals about 480 coffees, about 40 each month, or about 5 coffees each week.   It’s less than the council rates and the power bills and much more than I spend on clothes.

Do you use your local library?

All the time.  There have been times in my life when I have had no money at all to spend on myself and my library was my sole source of books.  If I were ever to move house, being within walking distance of a library would be one of my essential criteria.  These days I belong to three: Kingston, Bayside and Glen Eira.  Kingston has a branch in my local shopping centre and I go there as part of my routine, hovering around the New Books Shelf for serendipitous finds, and maintaining supplies of audio books which I find expensive to buy and (generally) too demanding of shelf space because I like CDs not digital versions.    If I am a bit hard up, I’ll reserve a book using the online catalogue, and if I’m really hard up and they don’t have it, I put in a request for them to buy it for me.  (Through the Australian PLR (Public Lending Right) authors and publishers still get paid when their books are in libraries.)

I noticed that Book Mongrel kept incurring fines for overdues: all my libraries send me email reminders, and I used to use Library Elf before library reminders became standard practice.

If so, how many do you borrow at a time?

Two or three audio books in case I don’t like one of them; 2-8 novels or non-fiction, it just depends on what I find.  I stop once my arms are full…

What’s your opinion on library books?

They’re essential:

  • for reference, whether you’re looking for a recipe or a history book.  Yes, even in the days of Google, because you can take them home and curl up on the sofa and read them;
  • for serendipitous finds.  Libraries have a responsibility to provide a wide variety of books, for all kinds of readers.  Libraries that focus too much on commercial and genre fiction are letting down people like me.  My library branch has the balance right; I’ve observed that other branches in the same network don’t.
  • for being with people who love books, especially if the rest of your world isn’t interested in them.  They are restorative for the soul;
  • for kids to learn about the world of books and a bookish atmosphere.  This does not mean inviting children to a story time session and allowing them to run around screaming, which is what I experienced to my dismay at the Jasper Rd branch of the Glen Eira library last week.  I left without collecting the book I’d reserved there.  I couldn’t stand it.  (Teachers (including retired ones like me) tend to be intolerant of badly behaved children because children never behave like that at school, only when they are with parents who let them make a nuisance of themselves).

I take even greater care of library books than I do of my own.

How do you feel about charity shop/second hand books?

These places come into their own for backlisted books, the ones culled from the library and no longer stocked online or in bookshops.  They are an essential part of the mix.  The author and publisher don’t make anything from the sale, but Op Shops use the money in worthy causes, and second-hand shops need to make a profit or they don’t stay open.  And we need them to stay open so that we can browse for serendipitous finds and to search for backlisted books by our favourite authors.  My favourite second-hand bookshops are Grant’s Bookshop in Reserve Rd Cheltenham and Bound Words in Hampton St Hampton, and I miss – I really, really miss – Diversity Books which used to be in Mordialloc and then Mentone, but is now only online.  I also use the charity site Brotherhood Books because they have an excellent search function on their website, and I can sometimes find something there that I can’t find anywhere else.

Do you keep your read and TBR pile together/on the same bookshelf or not?

They’re on separate shelves in my own home library, alphabetically by surname for fiction and by topic for non-fiction.  Up to a point.  I thought when I had a library at home that my books would all fit into it, but they don’t.  So some books I’ve read (not TBR books) are elsewhere around the house.  The only rooms that don’t have books in them are the bathroom and the laundry.  The slide show below doesn’t quite include all our books because I didn’t want to disturb The Spouse while he is working.  So you can’t see Biography; Military History; Jazz, Economics or his uni books.  You also can’t see my collection of plays and of foreign language learning books because the bookcase is tucked into a corner of the sitting room and it’s too hard to photograph.  There is also a cardboard box with about 20 books that publishers have sent me, but a box doesn’t make a great photo!

Do you plan to read all the books you own?

Of course.  (But I don’t make reading plans, not any more.  I never kept them anyway so now I just have vague intentions, as to the timing.)

What do you do with books that you own and that you’ll feel you’ll never read/enjoy?

I don’t have any of those.

Have you ever donated books?

I used to keep all my books, and I mostly still do, but because of lack of space now I donate books I know I’ll never read again (i.e. disappointments) to my local Op Shop.

Have you ever been on a book buying ban?
No. I have sometimes been too hard up to buy books, but that’s not a ban on buying them.  See my introduction.

Do you feel like you buy too many books?

I don’t know what this means.  Too many for what?  I have about 860 books on my TBR and at a reading rate of about 200 books per year, that’s 4 years supply if I read nothing else but what’s on my TBR.  If the eBook had succeeded in killing the real book, what I have wouldn’t be enough to last very long.  Since reading is essential to my sanity, my TBR is insurance against a bleak bookless future.

If this question means, is having a big TBR is a problem, my answer is no, it’s not.  It’s like having a well-stocked pantry, or enough clothes to meet your needs.  We make room and time for the things that matter, just as we find the money for the things that matter, or we find some other way to get them (like libraries).

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  1. Ha, I could have written this post. I still spend at least $200.00 on books per month I would say. I seem to buy books I have not heard of. I go into my favourite indie Fullers in Hobart to look at something or just to get a coffee and a cover or description will stand out and it comes home with me. Book depository for books I read from overseas bloggers. Op shops for classics and out of print. I also use the library , more for things I am interested in at the time. Art, gardens, photography. I keep a list of things to look for in library and it probably has a thousand books on it. I can see myself going without food before going without books, up to a point of course. Fun post.

    • Ah, that’s interesting. What makes you buy the book you haven’t heard of? Is it the cover, or the blurb or something about the display of the book?

      • Probably all three. I like rural scenes or village scenes on book covers, sometimes quirky. Maybe there is no reason…I see I take, lol.

  2. I can totally relate to all you say. I have never admitted this to anyone but my TBR pile is around 650. I can’t stop buying books. I can’t read them all as I replace everything I read with something new. All my book loving friends only use the library but that makes me sad as a brilliant books’ author deserves your $20. I have cut back on everything else but I think that something in my brain snapped when e-readers came out and I started stockpiling for a future with no books. I am trying to limit a new book for every 5 I read but we will see…

    The only problem now is you have shared some more book sources for me to explore!

    • Your fears about a future with no books are probably widespread. I think I had a sense of panic about it, because it coincided with the release of 1001 Books We Must Read, and so I was suddenly aware of all these wonderful books that I might not ever get to read. I was most worried that if commercial imperatives prevailed, the books I like might vanish altogether. That was before Goodreads and blogging, which are a daily reassurance that I am most certainly not alone, but there definitely was a time when I thought there would never be anyone who wanted to read and talk about the books I was interested in.

  3. Interesting. You spend more than I do, and read more too, though I listen to up to 5 audio books a week, while I work, from the local library. If I see a review of a new book that catches my interest I’ll phone my local indie, Crow Books, Vic Park WA. Till a few years ago nearly all my books were second hand (or presents). No shops nearby any more, but I go through the salvos whenever I can.

    • I thought that when I was retired, I would have to choose between saving for overseas holidays or buying books, but it hasn’t worked out like that because we don’t really want to travel far while my MIL is still with us. (She’s 92). I don’t ever want to have to do a repeat of that nightmare 30 hours journey home not knowing whether someone I love is alive or dead. So I’m still buying books!

  4. I’m too scared to figure out how much money I spend on books per month. I just know that when my bank statement arrives it’s one book store after another listed on there!

    • I’ve been tracking my spending for years, using a program called Reckon. It classifies my spending, and helps me keep track of what I do with my money, so that I know I’m spending it on things I really want instead of frittering it away on coffees and suchlike.

      • I need something like that, I think, though I suspect it would only reveal what I already know: that most of my spare cash goes on books, beer and travel.

        • I got a bit of a shock when I realised how much I was spending on resources for school. Lots of small amounts adding up to an awful lot. I suspect that most teachers do this without realising it…

      • Yes, we do this too, and have been for years. It hasn’t changed our spending patterns but we know it could be useful if we ever had to! But, it is interesting to see where the money goes. (I’ve just discovered this meme today and have scheduled my response for this evening – but I didn’t check our accounting database as that’s on Mr Gums’ computer. I just give him the data/receipts and he does it).

        I must say that one of the things I really want is coffee! I love going out for a cuppa to meet friends. That’s where we fritter away a fair amount of money!

        • I love coffee too, but because I have such trouble with insomnia, I can’t drink it at all after mid morning. Which tends to curtail my gadding about in coffee shops. It is not really fun to sit sipping green tea with the glorious aroma of coffee all around and everyone else is drinking it.

          • No it is not, I agree. I’m not a great sleeper, but from my observation of myself re when I do and don’t sleep, I don’t believe it has much to do with coffee.

            • Alas, the causal link with me is quite clear, and unlike most people who process caffeine in an hour or two, it stays in my system for 9-10 hours. Still, at least it means I really, really enjoy my coffee when I have it:)

              • And you’d want to really make sure it was a good one! I have the equivalent of 2 cups a day and if one of those is not great I feel frustrated! (At home we grind our own. We grind half full beans, half decaf. I have 1 or 2 of those a day, and enjoy them, and most days one out, frittering my money away😁!)

  5. Oh, this is such fun. I cop a little bit of flak sometimes from ‘the bloke’ due to the amount of books I have. It is not so much the room they take up as the boxes they fill every time we move. For that reason (and due to monetary concerns) I do buy less than I used to. When we lived in a tiny unit, piles of books doubled as coffee-tables and door stops. I just called ‘the bloke’ in to my study so he could view your slide show; I don’t think he’ll complain again. Haha!

    • *chuckle* I’m glad my slide show is useful!
      I could never move. I remember when we renovated and all the books had to be put in storage. It was a nightmare…

  6. I would buy books all the time if I could afford it. I probably manage to buy 2-4 a month. Some from online, a book shop, at the airport or from my op shop. I have so many books spread throughout the house that I have to read! When, I don’t know. I borrow a lot of books from the library. If I din’t have my library which is in Essendon (and it so good), – I would be starving. I never listen to audio books and I don’t have a kindle or such, and hardly read on line. I want to hold the book, smell the book and be totally involved in the book. I have given books away, but only because I was moving house. I wasn’t happy to do it. I now realise I gave some away that I should not have given away. Damn!

    • I wonder if your library is the one my father used to take me to when we first came to Australia and lived in Essendon? After a dismal three weeks in a dingy boarding house in Moonee Ponds, werented a small house on Mt Alexander Rd, no 1068. All our things were still in storage for six months while my mother reconnoitred Melbourne to discover a suburb she liked (which turned out to be East St Kilda), so the library was essential!

  7. Lisa, it probably was the Sam Merrifield Library. It is in Mt Alexander Road, near the Moonee Ponds junction. Great books and great staff.

    • I’m not often over that way, but I’ll have to check it out next time I’m in your part of Melbourne. Though I don’t suppose it will look the same after all this time, it was over 50 years ago…

  8. I don’t think I’ve ever had a self-imposed book-buying ban but then I don’t buy too many. I use the library as much as I can, I take advantage of cheap kindle versions, use Project Gutenberg, I buy secondhand and I sell or give away any that I can live without. Lack of space means I have to be a bit ruthless. I end up keeping ones I really don’t can’t get rid of but for any that are freely available I tend to not worry too much. Though trying to predict what will or won’t be available in ten years time is nigh impossible.

    BTW This has happened a couple of times while I’ve been in the library recently: I’ve heard kids say something like ‘Wow! Look at all these books!’ ☺

    • One of the things I’m conscious of here in Australia is how lucky we are to have the luxury of space. Of course there are people who live in apartments, but the vast majority of Australians live in suburban houses on blocks that are large by international standards. Ok, I’ve got a library, but it’s only the shelves that make it unusual. Most of the houses in this street (which is like a million other streets just like it in Melbourne) would have a spare room for guests instead, or also quite common, what is often called The Junk Room which is where people store stuff, similar to how people store stuff in an attic in an English house.

  9. I take your point that buying books equates to an income and a livelihood for writers – my current restraint is a temporary one born out of necessity (I have absolutely no space left and everything is in such a mess I cant find what I want). I have no doubt I will be back to purchasing in second half of the year but I want that to be a more considered buying habit. The last few years I think I’ve bought stuff not knowing why….

    • And that’s so easy to do, because the marketing for books is very slick these days. The biggest trap I’ve fallen into is subscribing to a certain publisher, instead of buying just the titles that interest me. I won’t be doing that again.

      • Interesting – I’ve seen various packages promoted by some publishers where you take out a subscription but I’ve held back because if I dont enjoy what they send me each month/quarter then it would get to be expensive.

        • Exactly. Any book is expensive if you aren’t going to read and enjoy it, IMO.

  10. Nice post and thanks for sharing lovely pictures of your books. And also for giving me a very good justification for buying more books…. :)

  11. When we packed last year to move house I imposed a book buying ban. After two purchasers pulling out on us in the last year, all my books are still packed ;-( but I have rescinded the ban. probably buying about 30 books in the last year and many more e-books (because electronic books don’t count!)

    When we bought this house we had a spare room and an office for me which housed most of my books apart from cookery which were in the kitchen and husband’s fishing books which were at the end of our lounge in a glass cabinet.

    • LOL When I had to pack up all my books for our renovation (which took 6 months, and we lived in chaos for the entire time) I kept back about 20 of them ’till the last possible moment’. When The Spouse gently told me that that moment had arrived, I was devastated, and I almost wept as he drove off with them to storage.
      But not for long. Where there is a bookshop, a book can be bought, and by the time the renovation was finished and my books were restored to me to place in their new home, my first ever home library, I had a whole shelf of new books that I’d acquired in the meantime!

      • By coincidence, hubby came into my office yesterday and noticed the bookshelf in an empty bookcase had books on it. He said nothing, but left tutting and smiling! There are not too many more to pack…..but I am waiting until the last minute this time.

        I love going into bookstores,and did on Saturday. Hubby is not a reader (unless it involves fish!) and in response to my comment about having a peek at Waterstones, he responded with can you see from the door! A 50 minute book fix and I did escape with no books! How is that for willpower?

        • Gosh, the only time I could do that was when I went into one of those trashy chains with a book voucher that I couldn’t use because they don’t stock anything interesting.

          • It was willpower! I was the Pte daughter several times!

  12. I love your book pics, and I love that you watch Game of Thrones. I recently deleted Goodreads cause I think me trying to list all my books/reads was just additional pressure when I don’t need it. But I do love reading about other people’s reading.

    • It was Marg Bates from The Intrepid Reader who introduced me to GoT. She insisted that I would enjoy it and although I resisted, she was right. We have them on DVD and every time there’s a new series, we watch the whole thing from the beginning again.
      I’m not very social on GR but I have some nice friends there who have transitioned from Yahoo book groups. (I am only Facebook friends with people I actually know and am proper friends with F2F). I also find GR handy for cataloguing my books so that #doh I don’t buy things twice, and so that I can find things for readalongs like the 1951 Club. Much easier to sort My Books by date at the click of a finger than opening up 800-odd books to find one that was published in 1951! (I was going to read Molloy, but well, last week was just not the right week).
      But yes, reading about other people’s reading… this is a new 21st century thing, and I love it too.

      • I get all the good features of GR but for me there’s conflict in a number of ways, but mostly 1. having no time to keep it maintained as I’d like and 2. listing/rating Australian writers. It was my gut feeling not to review local books on my blog and I ignored that slightly. I think the problem for me, overall, is I only have so much energy and time and it needs to go to the writing (and the reading) but not to the reviewing/cataloguing. I feel good to have gotten rid of it.

        I can’t wait for GoT this year!

        • Oh yes, I hear you, and speaking as a reader of your novel, I’d like you to put your time into writing the next one too, not into cataloguing and reviewing books on GR! .
          There is a lot of pressure on authors to have a presence online, but in the context of time management you have to be strategic about it. I suspect that what works for authors of popular/commercial fiction might not work for authors of LitFic or NF and if I’m right about that, then much of what they do at GR would be a waste of time for you. And now that Twitter and Facebook algorithms are so distorted, I’m not sure that spending time there is much good to you either.
          BUT that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be there at all. IMO people should be able to find you and contact you at Twitter, and at FB, and you must also make sure that your books are listed at GR and also Library Thing and any other similar places. These things are all free, and all you need to do is monitor them in case you get notifications about something. I got a gig at the Bendigo Writers Festival through Facebook, so it can be worthwhile just being there and keeping a weather eye on it.

  13. Great read Lisa. Being in Brisbane I support the indies such as Avid, Folios, Riverbend and if out bay-side Little Gnome. I get a new book every 4 to 6 weeks. I frequent 2nd hand book shops with Annerley Community Bookshop, Bent and Archives being my favs. Just discovered Logical Unsanity and it is taking all my will not to go there too often. Bookfest is great in terms of charities. I am on Goodreads and find it a fine resource but gave up on a non owned TBR list as It became cumbersome.

    • Hello, and thank you for your comment:)
      I don’t have a non-owned TBR at GR either. I have wishlists, some of which are tagged by country, and I made those shelves exclusive so they don’t get in the way of the books I actually have.
      It was a bit of work to upload them in the beginning, but now it’s just a simple matter of adding as I go so I don’t find it too cumbersome:)

      • Had no idea about shelves being Exclusive. Thanks.

  14. […] to which I’ve become addicted. But when I came across this Book Buying Habits one via Lisa (ANZLitLovers) and Karen (Booker Talk), I decided it would be a good opportunity to explain myself, so here goes […]

  15. Great answers! And thanks for the mention ;)

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