What If I Only Bought Books Just Before I Read Them?

I’ve always bought books far faster than I could ever read them.  That’s always been true for physical books, and it’s even truer for audio books and ebooks.  I just can’t pass up a bargain, like Audible.com’s recent sale that priced hundreds of audio books at $4.95 each.  I bought 10 and I’m thinking about buying more, even though I have 60-80 audio books I haven’t listened to yet because of previous sales.  Now my Kindle is filling up full of ebooks waiting to be read.

Amazon has been offering 100 ebooks each month for $3.99 or less.  Plus Books on the Knob keeps me informed of a constant stream of free ebooks and ebooks at bargain prices.  And SFSignal announces almost daily free SF/F/H ebooks to try.  There are so many free ebooks deals out there, and not just crappy books, but books worth reading, that it would be possible to never buy another book again.

I already own more books than I have time to read even if I lived to be 100.  I’m a book addict.


I know why writers and publishers give away ebooks.  They want exposure.  New writers wants readers.  I’ve read blogs by new writers who say when they price their books free hundreds and even thousands of them get downloaded.  Of course, they also say, when the put a price back on the books, the downloads slow to a trickle, but that trickle is more sales than they got before they offered their books for free for a few days.  Even established writers offer some of their books for free hoping to get attention for their other books.

I’ve yet to read any of the free ebooks I’ve collected.  And I’ve only read a handful of the bargain priced ebooks.  And I wonder if I’m typical?  Does free ebooks just inspire a kind of hoarding and not reading?

If I was practical I’d only buy a book just before I was ready to start reading it.  Now this is like believing I’m only going to eat food that’s good for me, but it is quite logical.  Even if books were $50 each I would save a tremendous amount of money if I only bought books I actually read.

What if all readers actually followed through on this practically plan of book buying?  What percentage of book sales go to unread books?  What percentage free books get read?

Maybe I just like shopping for books.  Maybe I just like reading book reviews.  Maybe I could find a way to collect books I want to read but probably won’t, without buying them.  I’m in a book club and I made up a list of potential books to read and found that very enjoyable.  I even like rereading the list.  I could build a virtual library of the books I think I want to read.  Growing up I wanted to own a bookstore.  Maybe that’s why I hoard books.  I also worked in a library for years – that could also explain my instinct to collect books.

If I bought books only just before I read them would I feel the need to collect them afterwards?  If I become just a reader can I divorce myself from my collecting instincts?

Also, if I bought books just before I read them how would that change my life?  I’d have more money and time, but what about the subtle changes?  I spend a lot of time shopping for books, reading reviews, looking for bargains.  There’s a table at my work we’ve designated as the free book table and people bring in books they want to give away and leave them on the table.  I’m all the time looking through those books, often taking many, but seldom reading them.  My public library has a used bookstore within the library that I like to visit too.  I guess if I spent less time shopping for books I could actually read more.  And I’d spend less time pouring over online sales and book catalogs.

All of this sounds very practical and positive, but I don’t know if I can give up my book hoarding addiction.

JWH – 3/10/12


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