Sunday, December 24, 2006

Books, Books, & More Books

A standard recommendation for the budget-conscious is to utilize your public library. When my kids were little, we had weekly library trips and would return home with a dozen new picture books, and it was a fabulous resource.

The internet and my discretionary income expanded at about the same time, and my kids outgrew picture books, so I started treating myself to impulse clicking on Amazon to purchase books. My public library rarely had what I wanted, its hours were inconvenient (I live in a city with underfunded infrastructure), and inevitably returning the books would be a hassle. I soon learned I needed to discipline these purchases, though, because I didn't want to keep adding bookcases. I was gradually coming to the conclusion that I, like many, was a book hoarder. What was the point of having shelves and shelves of books I read once, or meant to read and had never gotten to?

When it became easy to sell books on Amazon, I was on it! I gradually sold dozens of non-keeper books, more than off-setting the inflow. As the offerings of used books expanded, I found I could buy most anything used, decluttering someone else's house in a brilliant Win/Win. Some authors complain about this secondary market of books because it cuts out their royalties, but I say Bravo. As an author, I am thrilled that more people will read my book!

Considering the time expended and a trip to the post office to send them Book Rate, I lose money reselling books, but I do it anyway. I think of it as a problem solver, not an income stream. It gets those books off my nightstand, out of my life, and back out in the world. Some lady in Wichita, Kansas, wants my cookbook! I would do it for free. My strategy, in fact, is to underprice all the offerings on Amazon, so that a buyer will choose my listing. It works very well. Nancy reminded me of another book divesting opp: BookCrossing. BookCrossers leave books in public spaces as a random act of sharing. The website tracks the travel of each book, if the recipient cares to participate.

My friend P turned me on to a fabulous resource, Fetchbook. I love that "fetchbook" sounds Yiddish, that its the only site I ever go to in the .info domain, and that it is a price comparison portal. You put in a book, it tells you the cheapest places to buy it.

Now I buy books all the time, mostly at deep discount from retail, often from small independent booksellers. If the book is not a keeper, I just resell it. For me buying a brand new spanking clean book is a very rare event, a luxury reserved mostly for friends' book parties!

Funny how our experiences of luxury are contextual.

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