I would hate to try and count the books I own. Even with an annual purge of books I’ll never re-read the library overflows over five six feet tall bookshelves, with books wedged in wherever possible. There are now two tall and perilous piles of books sheltering against one of the bookshelves. Luckily the cats haven’t thought to use them as a stepping stone to the windowsill yet! I estimate that between my husband and I we have thousands of books. We both re-read most of them too.
I’ve now come to the conclusion that I should, despite my love of holding that thing made of paper, start collection more series as e-books. I had the best intentions there late last year when a friend put me onto Rita Mae Browns’ Mrs Murphy mystery series. I bought the first two in the series as e-books very cheaply, then to my dismay found that the publishers hadn’t issued the other 16 as e-books. They were only available as hard copy. As I was hooked by then, I bought them on eBay either new or second hand from international sellers (much cheaper!) and they form part of one of the perilous piles. I’ll be reviewing them as a series shortly.
Where and why do we buy our books? Our local bookseller gets a lot of business from us; he knows us well and has our preferences on file so when a new book by a favourite author is available he’ll give us a ring. He also regularly institutes that dangerous and money-grabbing invention, The Bargain Table. He’ll take boxes of remaindered new books from the publishers and sell them for anything up to 75% off the original price on big trestle tables in the middle of the shopping centre. Books in Australia are expensive; a new paperback will cost you at least $25, a trade paperback $35 or more. So The Bargain Table can see us grabbing four books for the price of one.
The danger with The Bargain Table is that one takes chances on authors one hasn’t read before. Sometimes we put the book away, half-read, with no enthusiasm to read the rest as it’s absolutely turgid and wondering why we bothered buying it. These books usually go straight into the charity box we keep near the front door and I feel guilty that I have done the author a bit of a disservice – writing books is a hard slog. If we find an author whose work we really enjoy, however, it’s likely we’ll start buying more from that author (see Rita Mae Brown above!).
Airports are another trap for the reader. My husband travels quite a bit and he often comes home with a new gem from the excellent bookshop in the domestic terminal at Sydney airport, where you can buy books that are not simply the top 100 bestselling paperbacks you typically find at airport bookshops.
Church fetes and second-hand shops are bliss – here’s where we pick up the books missing from series we’ve collected years before. Paperbacks for 50 cents, anyone?
eBay is another favourite of mine for tracking down missing books from series that I can’t seem to find anywhere else. It’s also a place where I dispose of unwanted books in good condition from time to time.
I often get asked by friends – typically the ones who don’t read very much at all – why we don’t just borrow from the local library. Firstly there’s not one in walking distance but the main reason is that if I have a hankering at 10pm to read a particular book, I have it to hand. I’m a fast and voracious reader. I should probably use the library for cost reasons alone though; I have never dared tot up how much I’ve spent on my reading habit. Books are an addictive drug!
Slowly however the e-book collection is growing, as even with purges those piles aren’t diminishing, and e-books, like The Bargain Table, are substantially cheaper than real books. I’ve got used to reading on my iPad now but admit that I do tend to bolt e-books and speed read through them. If I have made any new year resolution this year it’s to stock up on e-books rather than hard copies. There just isn’t space in our cottage for a sixth bookshelf!
What’s your book collection? Does it fit neatly on your shelves, messily on them, all over the floor, in boxes, on an e-book reader, or in your local library?