Where Do I Get My Books?

July 30, 2009 at 11:17 am | Posted in Book Blather | 8 Comments

I’ve seen this going around and I thought it was interesting, so here goes.  Here is a list of the last 20 books I read and where they came from.

Beloved – Toni Morrison.  Local library.

The Urban Hermit – Sam MacDonald.  Local library.

The Able McLaughlins – Margaret Wilson.  Bought on Amazon after scrounging around for free electronic copy.

Disappearance Diary – Hideo Azume.  Local library.

Many Lives, Many Masters – Brian L. Weiss.  Mom lent me.

Shakespeare Wrote for Money – Nick Hornby.  Neighboring county’s library.

Population, 485 – Michael Perry.  Local library.

Beat the Reaper – Josh Bazell.  Local library.

Why is God Laughing? – Deepak Chopra.  Local library.

The Father of All Things – Tom Bissell.  Local library.

Crimes Against Logic – Jamie Whyte.  San Francisco library.

So Big – Edna Ferber.  Local library.

The City and the City – China Mieville.  Friend’s library copy.

Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill.  Local library.

Weetzie Bat – Francesca Lia Block.  Local library.

The Blue Guide to Indiana – Michael Martone.  San Francisco library.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth – Carrie Ryan.  Friend’s library copy.

The Strain – Guillermo Del Toro.  Local library.

Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York – Gail Parent.  San Francisco library.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven – Susan Jane Gilman.  Local library.

The Big Skinny – Carol Lay.  Local library.

This is somewhat depressing.  I am pulling from the library systems of at least three counties and using an additional person’s library card.  From this sample it would appear that I only buy 5% of what I read, but in fact it’s far less than that.  Only six of the books I read this year were “mine” and three were mooched.  I only paid full price for two, and one of those was electronic.  So I “bought” 2% of my reading material and paid for .7% of it.

I did buy two books off my list, but those were for gifts, so I’m not sure whether they count.

You may have noticed one thing that’s missing from my list, and that’s ARCs.  I did read an ARC this year, but it wasn’t sent directly to me; it was cadged off the original recipient.  I have an ARC I got from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, but I’m in trouble with them because I haven’t read it yet.  I’m in very little danger of having my “reviews” swayed by authors or publishers because I’m such a procrastinator about reading anything in paperback.

My library usage is shameless.  We can check out up to 30 books and have 20 on hold at any given time.  We can also borrow up to three from our SuperSearch system, pulling from neighboring counties.  I am lucky enough to also have access to the San Francisco library, because they will give a card to anyone who lives in California State.  Naturally I make the most of this situation, so I always have those 23 books on hold, typically about 20 checked out, and another 6-8 from SF.  With a bit of organization and a bit more obsession, it’s possible to read all sorts of things without remunerating the deserving artist one bit.


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  1. I don’t think it’s shameful. I saw this breakdown going around and tallied up my own in my head: ninety precent (I think) bought secondhand- meaning I paid less than a dollar for it. I haven’t patronized my local library in ages because I’ve been buying books at discard sales. I feel guilty for not going to the library!

    • You know, that’s a good point! My library buys an additional copy of a book for every 50 requests. When the library buys books, the author receives royalties. When we buy used copies, the author gets nothing.

      It seems funny that the author could benefit from a reader checking out a book for free instead of buying it. What a paradox.

  2. OH MY GOD–you can only check out 30 books? I would, I fear, quite literally have to lay down and die. Our library system lets us check out 100, have 75 “on request.” I max that out on a regular basis (it’s not all books–I get a lot of movies too). I’m going to have to send my library a nice thank-you note, I think.

    Don’t feel too bad–libraries are a valuable market for books. Not only because they buy books, and they buy a lot of books from small presses and other indies, but also because they encourage buying of good books. I’ve often toddled out to buy a book after I’ve given it a test run from the library. Crikeys. If I had to buy all my own books I’d have to stop working in the book-producing industry (or marry a doctor) or I’d never be able to keep the roof over my head.

    • So THAT’s how you do it! I always wondered how you seemed to be able to get everything before I did. 75 on hold? I couldn’t have that many even if I managed to convince my housemates to let me use their cards, too.

  3. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as “abusing the library system”. Libraries are meant to be used – their purpose is to provide books to the public at virtually no cost (paying the occasional dollar for a new card or for the subscription, I feel, pays off…). Unlike receiving review copies, these books have been paid for; they helped give the authors a tiny slice of money. Not much, granted, but a little regardless. And I’ve purchased books by authors I’ve liked on more than one occasion thanks to the library. It isn’t abusing the system – it’s encouraging it and allowing it to flourish.

  4. Ditto. I almost always buy books only after reading them from the library first (except for the ones at end-of-the-library-sale when they’re a box for $5 or whatever, then I gobble up all I can haul!)

  5. My library is where I get most of my books as well. My post will be up tomorrow.

    We can borrow 60 items and have 20 items on hold at any one time, and at the moment I am right up at the maximum on both of those! I wouldn’t mind Citizen Reader’s library limits though!

  6. Personally I think hold books should be unlimited as long as you can read them all. In lieu of that, I’d be thrilled if my library set up a rental system like I’ve seen in other places. I’d happily pay $1 and turn in the book the next day so someone else could read it three weeks sooner.

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