How I get books

Where do you buy your books? Where should you buy your books?

Since I became an author, and learned a little bit about the publishing industry, these are questions on my mind when I need or want a book.

Without consciously doing it, I’ve developed my own book buying strategy.

Let’s look at my options.

The Chain

In Muncie we have a Books-A-Million, which never seems to have any of the books that I want, and when they do, the price is high unless you are a member of their club that costs $25/year. And the staff, if they are book lovers, do one heckuva job of hiding it. I don’t have a whole lot of loyalty to the store. Part of the inspiration for my Book Signing vs. Book Club video is based on experiences there.

Reasons to Support:

– Meg Ryan might be against the big Chain stores like BAM, Barnes & Noble, and Borders because they threaten Independents, but the truth is the chain stores keep food on the table for authors. My publisher was pumped when B&N and Borders pre-ordered a couple thousand copies of Where Am I Wearing. Without these big orders, advances to authors would shrink.

Reasons not to support:

– Ask Meg Ryan. Also, if you’re not a member of their club you might have to pay the cover price for a book. The cover price on my book is $24.95. I love my book, but even as its author, I think that’s too much to spend on a book.

Used Bookstores

We also have two decent used bookstores. The aptly named White Rabbit is near Ball State’s campus and can best be described as a rabbit hole of books. The shelves are dusty. The books are ripe. Apparently the books reproduce like rabbits because there always seems to be a little less elbowroom each time I return. The Book Center near the Muncie Mall has a nice selection of books as well in a much more open space. Finding something there is a little easier than at White Rabbit, but where’s the fun in that.

Reasons to support:

– Cheap. You can get well-loved books for a fraction of what you’ll pay anywhere else.

– The best way to grow your personal library without shilling out loads of cash. There’s a direct correlation to the number of books in a home and the number of years of education a child will complete. (Great! This means that Harper will be in school until she’s 40! Maybe we need to get rid of some of our collection.)

The study, by M.D.R. Edwards, Jonathan Kelley, Joanna Sikorac and Donald J. Treimand, examined samples from 27 different countries and found that growing up in a home with 500 or more books offers a child the same advantage as “having university-educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father.” Even with as few as 25 books in the home, a child, on average, will complete two more years of education than a child growing up in a home with no books. (from Today’s Zaman )

– The thrill of the hunt.

Reasons not to support:
– Doesn’t support the publishing industry or authors themselves.

Independents

Muncie doesn’t have one (tear runs down cheek). I love independent bookstores. I love the handwritten suggestions and the staff picks. I love when a book lover helps me find a book that I’ll love.

Reasons to Support:
– These are small businesses run and owned by book lovers/author champions.

Reasons not to support:
– The prices can be a bit higher because they aren’t ordering hundreds or thousands at a time, but there’s really no reason other than you don’t have one nearby not to support them.

Amazon

I can have a book on my Kindle in under two minutes or one on my doorstep in under two days (thanks to Amazon Prime). Around two-thirds of my book purchases come from Amazon. I looked at my buying history and I buy just over one book per month from Amazon.

Reasons to Support:
– Because an author’s self-worth is proportional to their Amazon Rank (I’m somewhat kidding).

– Endless inventory.

– Amazon’s prices are tough to beat for new and used books.

Reasons not to support:
– I don’t want to live in a world without bookstores.

Better World Books

If you don’t know about Better World Books, you should. They’ve saved 35 million books from landfills and have donated more than $8 million to support literacy around the world.

Reasons to Support:

– You get great prices on used books while supporting a great cause. They also offer a really cool feature in which you can add a penny or two onto your shipment to offset your carbon footprint.

– They are in Indiana! That’s where I live!

Reasons not to support:

– BWB’s new book prices are usually higher than Amazon. Since I have Amazon Prime (free 2 day shipping), their shipping cost is higher and slower.

– You can’t stand Notre Dame and their unwillingness to win football games or join a conference.

Library

I love libraries and am not afraid to admit it. Read the essay Give Me Libraries!

Reasons to Support:

– Books shouldn’t be only accessible to those who can afford them.

– I’ve had readers apologize for checking out my book from a library instead of buying a copy. Libraries are major supporters of authors. Think of how many libraries there are? Libraries buy tons of books. Without them, author advances would be much smaller. Depending on a book, these are guaranteed sales. If you want to support an author go to your local library and if they don’t have his/her book(s), request that they get them. This exposes an author’s work to countless people and leads to a copy or two sold.

Reasons not to support:

You want a book in your collection.

My book acquiring strategy

1) Library – I always have a handful of books checked out from the Muncie Public Library. Right now I have “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote and Greg Mortenson’s latest book (audio) checked out. The only reason I don’t go to a library for a book is because I want it in my collection or the library doesn’t have it.

2) Independent – If I happen to be near an Independent and they have a book I want, I prefer to support them. But since I don’t live near one, I rarely do.

3) Better World Books – I love gifting books from BWB. You can send a friend a book for just a few dollars and support a great cause.

4) Amazon – Cheapest and fastest way to get a book since my local BAM seems to be filled with books that I don’t want to read.

5) Chain – If I’m really, really impatient and I think BAM might have the book.

6) Used Book stores – too enhance my personal library while not de-hancing my bank account. This is more of hobby shopping or a recreational activity than anything else. Rarely do I need a book that I can find in a used book store.

That’s how I get books to read. How about you?

And if we aren’t pals on Goodreads yet, let’s change that. Let me see you bookshelf!

 
2 comments

Does it make any difference to an author where readers purchase their books? I’m not a rich person, but I could certainly afford a full-price book now and then. Sometimes, when I’m scooping things out of the discount bin or buying at Half-Price Books, I wonder if I’m ripping off the author. I suspect the people with the most to gain from full-price books are the stores and distributors, not even the publishers, but I’m not sure. I really want to support great authors – there are so many sucky ones out there getting published and selling lots of books on name recognition only.

Kelsey says:

It doesn’t make any difference to me. I just want folks to read my book. Granted, it is nice and very important that someone buys my book. If I only sold 100 copies, but those copies where passed around to 100 people, I would never get the opportunity to write a book again.

Some writers contracts are a percent of sales on the cover price so it doesn’t really matter to them if you buy it at a discount from Amazon or not. Others are set to the price the publisher gets from the retailer.

If you can afford to support an author do so, if not borrow.

Let your voice be heard!