How I buy books


Yeah, it’s been a long time since I featured a book stack here. The one above resides in a corner of the living room, after I successfully persuaded my parents into accepting that book stacks qualify as a decorating element. The stack is about three feet high. Nearly four and a half, if you count the table it’s on.

I’ve been buying books, of course, but I’m just not that diligent about blogging about it. Given it’s been months since the last post, the stack would be high.

I just sorted out my book receipts (I keep them for tax purposes) and am quite shocked by the numbers on some of them. I shouldn’t be, since I handed over money/credit card for them and have paid for it in full by now, but still. I really do turn a blind eye when books are involved. I do have certain ground rules for buying books, of course.

Do I really want to own this book?
Book are not cheap, so each purchase has to count. For books and authors I’m not familiar with, I try to borrow or buy a cheaper copy to sample. For those I know and love through sampling, I am willing to part with money to own my own copy. Recent examples include Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”, which I recommend if you still haven’t read it.

Wait for the paperback
Sometimes it’s not easy, and sometimes you just give in because things like standing in line at 7.01am for a Harry Potter book is something is a once or twice in a lifetime thing. There are actually a couple of books that I’m dying to get and the paperback is taking its time coming out. This, for instance… quick liaw!

Troll book stores often for deals
Some book stores do occasionally pop out an older title in hard cover or trade paperback for real cheap. I just picked up Hari Kunzru’s “The Impressionist”, Eoin Colfer’s “Half Moon Investigations” and Elizabeth Kostova’s “The Historian” in hard cover for much less than what we normally pay for a paperback. Second-hand book stores like Book Castle also yield some exceptional finds, not as mint as new books, but if it’s something you want to own or try out, it’s worth the money.

Membership cards
If you’re a bibliophile, membership cards are worth it! If I find myself buying from one particular book store often, I sign up for a card.

Does it match my set?
Series collectors are fussy about this one. If we have this specific edition, we stick to it for both aesthetic and practical reasons. Sets are shelved together, in order. If one of two books are a different edition, they’re also most likely a different size. I’m not completely anal about sets; if I can’t wait, I’ll get it in whatever edition it comes out it. But I do collect certain sets and I’m willing to wait.

For example, I started reading “Left Behind” about 10 years ago and was collecting it as they came out. I stopped for a few years because they just stopped coming to Kuching, but have started looking again now that the authors completed the original set. (I found that they are many spinoffs. Too confusing!) I could have completed my collection, but the last book was only available in hard cover. So I picked up the two I’m missing and had to explain to the bookseller why I’m not might-as-well getting the last one.

Other sets I’m waiting for include Artemis Fowl and Tales of the Otori. Sets that I’m slowly collecting is the Roald Dahl collection. Mismatched sets that I’ll eventually buy again in the same edition include the Hannibal series, Wilbur Smith’s Ancient Egypt series and the Harry Potter series.

Is that book calling my name?
This one is strange and I don’t know how many other people feel it. I talked about it here. Certain books lure me over to buy them. I’ll be sitting in the office, minding my own business, when I get a sudden restless feeling that I need to go to the book shop now. I won’t know what I’m looking for until I find it, and I almost always get something.

I know some people will say that I secretly wanted the book all along, but how do you explain the books I’ve never seen or heard of before that end up being a treasured find? (There is no “secretly want” for me, by the way. If I want it, I buy it. If I can’t get it here, I’ll wait or find another way to get it.)

I browse at book shops often without getting anything. I’ve also walked in wanting to buy a specific title, only to change my mind when I’m already holding it.

I like having this strange book instinct. It’s changed the way I shop for books.


I’m currently thinking of whether or not I should get a subscription for LibraryThing. My account has hit its limit and I still have more books to catalogue. I’m also on Shelfari, which is prettier and doesn’t have a limit. Perhaps I’ll move. I haven’t decided yet.

Meanwhile, I leave you with my collection at Shelfari, which oddly enough is short about 20 books despite the fact that I imported it straight from my LT account.

Author: Georgette Tan

writer . poet . introvert . NSFW hand letterer . equatorial eclectic

7 Comments on “How I buy books

  1. I don’t call myself a bibliophile but I do like books very much and have three bookstore membership cards (so far) to prove it. Though I’m supposed to save money, i can never stop buying books. I can skip lunch or something but I cannot stop myself from buying books. hehe

  2. LibraryThing pwns Shelfari imo.

    No contest. Shelfari may be “free” but its range of features is pathetic.

    On Shelfari, the books are secondary, the social connections more emphasized. As a bibliophile, I think the emphasis is completely misplaced. LT primarily gets the cataloging right first and THEN the range of social features (which as it happens is still better than Shelfari’s!).

    Personally, I think that Librarything and GoodReads (another excellent book cataloging site) are heads and shoulders above the competition.

  3. headhunter: Good point. I forgot about the social connection. Maybe it’s because it’s never a factor when I want to do something personal like cataloguing my books.

  4. where do u store your books?

    last i checked….your room wasn’t big enough to live in and have a library in it too…

    i stopped buying my ‘books’ because i no longer have shelves/spaces to put them.

  5. Glad to know I’m not the only one who feels like books call him. I often leave for lunch and suddenly find myself at the bookstore. I love used book stores. I’ve also discovered that a lot of airport bookstores have a deal where you buy a paperback for full price and you can return it for 50%. I keep most of them, but several that I haven’t liked I’ve returned. American Express also has a deal where you can earn points and cash them in for Barnes & Noble gift cards. I saw a cool blog recently where someone built a staircase with books along the side and between the risers. Cool idea.

  6. gid: The difference is all in selection of furniture. I have a computer table, which doesn’t allow room for much else except a full desktop unit. My bed is on the floor. It’s rather amazing how much room a bedframe takes up.

    I have at least half my book collection in here and there’s plenty of room for more. I have 6 units of those three-tiered shelves stacked against the wall behind my door and only half of that is filled with books. The other half is filled with junk that I really should move elsewhere, but I lost a lot of storage space when I changed tables.

    I also have shelves outside on the stair landing, and that huge pile of coffee table books in the living room.

    J Scott: Hah! I’m not the only crazy one! :-D Used book stores are awesome. I’m always intrigued by anything the previous owner scribbled on the inside.

    I think I’ve seen that staircase book thing too. And the couch with shelving built into it. I’m still contemplating the invisible bookshelf idea too.

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