Do You Know How Much You Spend on Books Each Month, And Other Qs for a Book Lover

Logan Sachon: I’ve been thinking about books a lot lately, physical books, and I thought you’d be a good person to talk to about that. Especially since last night I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post you wrote about wanting your books back! (“Hello! Hi. Have I lent you a book?? Do you still have this book? Trying to gather back books which have dispersed through the various boroughs in the past two years or so. I’m missing a lot, which is my fault, but “From the Library Of…” stickers are too too nerdy…”) So Tell me about your book consumption!

Chiara Atik: I usually buy 5-6 books a month.

Logan: Like actual physical books? Or ebooks.

Chiara: No, that’s total books, so probably about half and half. Well let’s see, in October I bought…. five ebooks and five regular books. So: 10.

Logan: Have you always been a book buyer?

Chiara: Yes. Always. When I was little it was the one thing my parents wouldn’t say no to. I could ask them for Polly Pocket or Littlest Petshop or whatever else and they’d say no, but they’d always buy me books. During the summers, I averaged about a Babysitter’s Club book a day. So, yes, I always buy books, and I never let myself feel guilty about them. And I love houses with books, I love reading books but I love them as objects, too

Logan: Do you have a book budget, specifically? or you just buy whatever books you want and if you dont have money to buy books you don’t buy books

Chiara: I don’t budget. I really should. And again, this permissive attitude I have towards buying books is probably a little…like, I push it too far. Sometimes I KNOW I can’t let myself go clothes shopping or out to an expensive dinner so then I’ll go to a bookstore and there I can’t give myself any trouble about it.

(I bought 12 books, I miscounted.)

(Two more physical ones.)

(That actually is a lot.)

(But I’ve read like, 8 of them….)

(One was a replacement.)

Logan: Do you keep all the books you buy?

Chiara: Unless I really, really hate them, in which case I give them to my teenage brother to sell. He keeps the money. He’s 15.

Logan: So tell me about lending books—is it something you do often?

Chiara: Yeah, unfortunately. Like—I think basically anytime someone comes over? Yesterday a friend was over and she asked to borrow a book “even though I still have halfway to go through the other one.” Which sort of prompted my Facebook status. I think I have like…20 books out in the world somewhere.

Logan: Mostly from people asking to borrow them? You don’t try to be a book fairy?

Chiara: No, I DEFINITELY try to be a book fairy. But I had just been one to her last week!!! With a different book that she still has.

Logan: Do you have a list you keep?

Chiara: No, or, actually, I think I started a Google doc once, but haven’t kept it up.

Logan: One reason I’m so interested in this is that I have mostly stopped buying physical books. I don’t even own any anymore, really.

The last time I moved cross-country, I left all my books in Oregon, basically. And it’s been making me sad lately when I’m in a house with books. It feels so good to be around them! I think I’ve missed that.

Chiara: Yeah! It’s like, the first thing I check out when I go to someone’s house. Just, see what kinds of books they have. For books I really love, I remember EXACTLY where I was when I read them. I remember my age, the room, what it made me think and feel at the time. I don’t want to go so far as to say my bookshelf is like a photo album but I do have very specific memories for most of the books.

Logan: I think that’s accurate though a little bit—books as memory capsules or photo books, objects that are transporting. I wonder if that’s why I miss them so much.

Chiara: It’s kind of not the same, replacing a book.

Logan: When I first moved to California, I brought a suitcase that was just books—and I’m not sure why, though looking back I feel like maybe they were to remind me who I was, ha. Or something. Or to show people who I was. I had books from anthropology classes I’d taken, novels. “This is who I am.” But even before I left all my books, I’d often be without the most important ones—I do love to share books. I’d make a new friend and give them whatever book I’d thought they love. I brought a few of my favorites to New York, but they’re all gone—lent out or given as gifts. The Dud Avocado is a book that just came at a really perfect time for me, when I was living in Portland, and I’ve given it away and lent it out and that out and bought it a couple more times. I don’t have any copies right now.

Chiara: Do you know who has it?

Logan: I do.

Chiara: Considered doing a passive aggressive Facebook status?

Logan: I keep planning to just take it when I’m at her house again, but I always forget. Plus I don’t think she’s read it yet. And I want her to read it.

Chiara: Are there ever any books that come out that you DON’T want in ebook? Like, Kindle is the most convenient thing in the world, and I think I buy way more books because of it—there’s no deliberation, just a click of a button but sometimes for a particular author or topic, I know it’s a book I want to physically own, so I wait.

Logan: It’s also cheaper, often, to buy ebooks.

Chiara: Way cheaper.

Logan: I’ve pretty much only bought ebooks for the past year or two. Though I have a few books that I’ve bought ebooks of that I know I want to have physical copies of. One of the early Emily Books picks was Sempre Susan by Sigrid Nunez, and I’ve read that book on my phone …. I don’t know, maybe four times all the way through and then in excerpts. If I’m on the train and don’t have a book I’ll just open it and kind of scroll through to do whatever the ebook equivalent is of opening a random page. So I think I’d like to own that book.

Chiara: Yeah, I think that’s a good litmus, if it’s something you’ve re-read twice, you can assume you’ll reread again. Although it’s nice to have it on your phone in addition! I also think that because of ebooks, publishers have really stepped up their cover art game. Have you noticed that? So, often I’ll get a book and the cover art is gorgeous enough to justify—in my mind—the $30 hardback price.

(I just remembered one of the books for October was a gift from my mom, so 11.) Also, The Marriage Plot, which I got in hardback, has a MUCH nicer paperback cover than hardback, so I was tempted to buy the paperback, but I didn’t.

Logan: In addition, you mean?

Chiara: In addition.

Logan: Are you a bookstore person or an Amazon person?

Chiara: Bookstore. I don’t browse Amazon.

Logan: So do you walk into a bookstore knowing what you want? how do you pick out books?

Chiara: It depends—sometimes I know I want a specific author, like when Alice Munro won the Nobel and I’d never read her, I walked to McNally Jackson to choose a random one. If I am in the mood for an author I’ll go to the bookstore. If I KNOW a book is going to come out. Like I KNEW Jhumpa Lahiri’s book was due in October, I’ll pre-order so I have it that day. Often once I’m in the bookstore I’ll see something else I want and sometimes I go into a bookstore just to look around. I probably go…..once a week.

Logan: Do you ever buy used books?

Chiara: No, unless it’s like a vintage copy of something I want. But, no. AND!!!! I don’t borrow from the library, but I’d like to change that. I’d really like to change that. I am 100 percent pro-library. There is one across the street from me. I’m sure that if I went to the library I’d start reading all kinds of books that I wouldn’t necessarily have purchased. Maybe I will get a library card today.

Logan: Why haven’t you used the library before?

Chiara: Probably just a sort of spoiled wanting to own, wanting what I want IMMEDIATELY without having to be on any sort of waitlist. I still wouldn’t use the library for contemporary fiction, I think. But I don’t necessarily need to buy a copy of, I dunno, whatever random thing I’d be interested in reading or trying out.

Logan: So it’s not because you write in your books? Dog ear the pages?

Chiara: NO!

Logan: But … how do you remember your place???! Or mark the parts you really love!

Chiara: I just….remember my place, I guess. And I wrote down the parts I really love in a notebook, OR, take a picture with my iPhone.

Logan: Do you know how much you spend on books?

Chiara: No.

Logan: Quite definitive! And I’m assuming you don’t want to know.

Chiara: Right. But I mean if you told me, I don’t think I’d feel bad about it. I’d probably throw up if I knew my taxi/Seamless/alcohol consumption, but books, I think I’d be okay with.



31 Comments / Post A Comment

readyornot (#816)

This was lovely. I totally agree about books being keepers of memories. I went through such extreme phases: buying all the books, giving away every single one so that I could freely move to another continent, then slowly building back up again. It was when my now-husband and I moved in together that I really started to miss my books. All of the memories were his! (not to mention, I was now jointly responsible for packing and moving all of those books.) As a result, we have like 1200 some volumes. But we also have library cards.

1) I totally write my name in any book I lend out; I don’t expect them back BUT then the person at least feels guilt forever and ever? Or not.

2) You definitely need to get on the library. I have a notebook I write down everything I read (it’s a pre-printed kind of thing “Smart Women Read Between the Lines,” but any notebook would work) since so much of it is from the library/on my kindle, so I don’t see it on my bookshelf the same way.

3) I wish I had more space for books; my apartment is tiny and between two sets of graduate school tomes and our very, very different tastes in pleasure reading means Mr. Polka Dots and I have one very small but very filled bookshelf. On the plus side, that keeps me from spending every free moment at the bookstore.

readyornot (#816)

@polka dots vs stripes if he’s Mr. Polka Dots are you Ms. Stripes?

@readyornot Well we combined our names so he is TECHNICALLY Mr. Polka Dots vs Stripes as well, but typing all that out gets old.

readyornot (#816)

@polka dots vs stripes I liked it! Combining seems more collaborative and less antagonistic – we all know how Kramer v. Kramer ends.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@polka dots vs stripes Yesssss. I write my name in books before I send those little babies out into the world.

Also, I just moved (again! in the same year!) and I had to pare down my book collection because they are just too damn heavy and my living space is too small and it was heartbreaking.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

The library! My library also does e-book lending. I only buy books if they are used and I am also going to try to give away a bunch of my books as Christmas presents this year on my mom’s side where we do homemade/$5 gifts.

shannowhamo (#845)

@BananaPeel Yup. I’m a librarian and while my library doesn’t have a huge eBook collection yet I still get some pretty good stuff, sometimes without a wait but putting a book on hold is kind of fun, too because you forget about it and then you get an email and it’s like “surprise! that book you want is here!” I just recently got assigned ordering the eBook non-fiction which is what I read so I’m like KA-CHING I hope my city is ready for access to alot more quirky pop science and true crime!

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@shannowhamo oh my gosh, it never occurred to me that there is a job where you get to choose which e-books! Also, what is the deal with only having a certain number of copies of e-books? I guess there has got to be some kind of control on supply, but it’s kind of frustrating when it’s just digital.
Also my library also has audiobooks I can download at home and put on my iPod and it is truly the greatest thing.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@BananaPeel the library still has to pay for the digital rights on those copies, so the publishers set restrictions.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@bgprincipessa I knowww, and I don’t blame the library at all, or publishers either really, because I want authors to get paid. I’m just whining, I guess.

OhMarie (#299)

@BananaPeel I read a TON and buy maybe 2 books a year and get the rest at the library. I actually don’t have an e-reader primarily because I’m sure I’d start to buy tons of books for it and I cannot afford it (especially since I read like other people watch tv, so I want easy books that I can blow through really fast).

cawcawphony (#2,990)

@BananaPeel Also some publishers jack up the prices for ebooks for libraries, so even though we really want to buy more copies, we can’t justify $90 for a file that we don’t even really own.

I was seriously tempted to buy The Marriage Plot paperback because of its cover design. I do own the hardcover, but I remember coming close to talking myself into buying the paperback, thinking I could lend it out.

RachelW (#2,605)

I recently calculated that over the past year I have spent an average of $60 a month on books. At first I was horrified, but then I figured, well, if reading is my favorite thing of all the things, $60 is not bad. I also borrow books from friends in order to defray costs. I try to get books from the library, but I NEVER return them on time and end up having to pay ridiculous fines. Sometimes I think I should spend less money on books, but I love books and I particularly want to support new authors that I like by buying their books, so I sort of feel like it’s my civic duty to support an industry I care about (although maybe that is just a huge lie that capitalism has taught me). Either way, since reading is my favorite pastime/hobby/after work activity and I’m bad at libraries, my spending habits are probably not going to change. At the very least I try to only buy books that I think I will read more than once, or that I know I can lend to multiple people who will also enjoy them.

Allison (#4,509)

@RachelW I never feel bad when I owe fines to the library, because I feel that I am supporting them in my deliquency! that whole $.10 a day definitely funds useful things!

The nice thing about ebooks though is that they just kinda disappear, so you can’t get fined.

RachelW (#2,605)

@Allison I actually feel the same way about the library fines – at least my disorganization results in a contribution to a good cause. But, ahem, sometimes I get myself in deep enough that my privileges are suspended, and then it’s back to the bookstore for me. You know, until I get it together enough to remember to bring enough cash to the library to pay off my fines (this may take months).

Kthompson (#1,858)

I can easily drop $200 if I go wandering in a bookstore. “Oh, this sounds vaguely interesting, I’ll buy it. I’ve read three by this author, I’ll try this one. Wow this cover is gorgeous, I want it.” But since I moved to this city, I have worked very hard to stay at the library, where I can do pretty much the same thing but without the guilt of spending $25 on a book. Been thinning out my library too, and only keeping books I really enjoyed while tossing out the meh ones, or ones I actually didn’t like.

Really, I save a ton of money with our excellent library system, and I don’t know what I’d do without it. Be broke, I suppose!

calamity (#2,577)

I almost totally stopped buying books for about three years when I started using the library. I only recently got back into it, and it feels so wonderful and decadent to me when I decide that yes, this is a book that I actually want to own. I spent SO much money on books in college, and I never even read half of them – I just wanted them around.

After I graduated and started making my own money, it got a lot more difficult for me to justify spending $15 on a book that I’d (hopefully) read, enjoy for a couple hours, and then never open again, when the alternative was to get it for FREE from the library. Now my litmus test is basically whether or not I’ll read it again, so most of the books I buy I’ve already read once.

Also for what it’s worth, if you stay on top of your release dates, you really CAN get the latest popular fiction out from the library. In the past two months I’ve borrowed Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld and MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood, and I just picked up the new Donna Tartt book from my local library yesterday. That’s how I read The Marriage Plot too! For big-name books like that, the libraries order tons of copies. I rarely have to wait more than a week or so for a book, and I always have something else waiting to be read at home anyway.

The other thing about library books is that when they have a due date, I’m a lot more compelled to actually finish them. Again, I was terrible about this during my college spate of “buy ALL the books.” I think I read MAYBE half of them. This is still a thing with books that I purchase – I can read them anytime (well, so long as I don’t die or go blind first), so why stop wasting time on the internet and do it now? At this point, if I don’t get through a book in the nine weeks (three weeks times two renewals) the library will let me have it for, I’m really never going to. I figure it’s just someone else’s turn to get a stab at it – returning it is better than letting it languish unread on my bookshelf. (The [used!!] copy of Anna Karenina I purhcased has that role cornered – it’s been glaring at me for about seven years now …)

shannowhamo (#845)

@calamity I can’t with physical library books…which is insane because I’m a librarian and I’m at the library everyday and I can renew my book as much as I want (which I don’t do if the book has holds because I’m not evil!) but I still get way behind and recently had to actually pay my work money for replacing a CD I borrowed (I dind’t even like the CD! And I ordered that CD for the library!)So strictly eBooks from the library now since they return themsevles!

calamity (#2,577)

@shannowhamo That’s insane, didn’t know you could renew them forever! I … probably would never read them myself either, in that case.

My library insists I owe them zero dollars, which is insane because I do return things after the deadline. Not super often, but often enough that I should owe them SOMETHING. Yet my account says … no fines. I even asked at the front desk around a year ago because it was so puzzling, I thought maybe their website was wrong. Nope! No matter how late I renew a book, no fines appear! I guess I have some library angel somewhere out there looking out for me? I feel kind of bad about it, honestly.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

this is our life – me and my husband – we met at a bookstore, he manages a bookstore, it’s always books, books,books. I have been good and i will buy used books but most often than not i want to buy buy buy books. On vacation we buy books. When we go out books. There is always a new book somewhere in our apartment. Ebooks are when it’s 1am and I really, really, really need to read the new jo nesbo. the one book segment I’ve taken the reins and really slowed down on are cookbooks. I used to have so many, I sold/donated a bunch. I won’t get rid of my dessert/baking books though and a couple of standbys. Sometimes when I’m sad I will flip through them and be instantly happy. We spend maybe $25 a month, but remember that’s usually after a discount.

Our new library isn’t that great (compared to our old one) and it’s so out of the way but it just opened a cafe so maybe that will be incentive to go visit more.

Lyesmith (#4,385)

Now I feel like having a $100 monthly book budget is a bit unreasonable. I don’t necessarily spend that much – I just want to have money set aside for that, since I spend 2 hours a day commuting to work. Like you, I never feel guilty for buying books when I would feel bad about buying new clothes, or something, plus I see books as part of my identity, or something. I re-read a lot of them, and I don’t take out library books because I don’t like giving them back.

womb bat (#3,498)

Books are one of the few things that I don’t ever feel guilty about buying, but I only spend about $30 a month. 90% of the books I buy are used and are from Powell’s or Amazon. If the difference in price between Powell’s and Amazon is under $5 I go to Powell’s, but sometimes I’m too lazy and opt for having it shipped to me for less. Then I feel super guilty and typically end up buying something from Powell’s within the week anyway. I have two large book cases in my living room filled with books that are organized by color, I like the way it looks. I’ve never purchased an Ebook and am too disorganized / hard on my books to use the library.

guenna77 (#856)

love this! cheap ebooks are a weakness for me the way that lattes or buying games or music on itunes is for other people. if i have no reading material for my walk home i will buy an ebook just to have something new.

i went through them so quickly as a child that my mom started to evaluate new purchases on a ‘cost per page’ basis, arguing that paying $5 for a really long book was preferable to spending $3 on one i would be done with by the end of the night.

planforamiracle (#4,034)

I rarely buy books—I use the library a LOT and borrow/lend from friends. I prefer to only own books that I have read, want to read again, want to lend out, or want to keep because they are special to me. I also tend to buy used books; a few community organizations in my neighbourhood have annual book sales where I can buy paperbacks for $2 so I’ll pick up books by authors l already know I like, or want to discover.
I also find using the library tends to erase whatever guilt i might feel about not finishing a book I’m not super into, probably because money is just taken out of the equation. I’d feel pressure to enjoy and finish a book I bought on release day in hardcover, even if I wasn’t digging it.
When I do buy books it’s really important to me to support the bookstore in my neighbourhood, so I maybe spend a little more per book, but I also buy >10 books a year.

Allison (#4,509)

I mostly only buy books when I’ve read them already, which leads to a lot of ebooks of things I’ve previously checked out as paper versions. Between college and post college annual moves, hoards of paper books doesn’t seem practical but the cloud is great!

I do feel bad for the half hour my mom and I spent wandering around the small town bookstore last time I was home, only to make a list of things that looked good, so I could get them at the library. But $15 for a paperback that I like the blurb of is so hard! Even if I could read it on the plan during no electronics time.

shallowpate (#1,701)

I only buy books that I want to read and that I also think my wife would like. That way I get the credit for giving her a present and I also get to read the book. Otherwise it’s the Brooklyn Public Library for me.

VelourFog (#5,077)

I was the only child spending my summers reading in my room. My parents would get mad that I read so much, because I kept asking them to buy me more books to read. I love books and I’m sentimental. But… I’m actually slightly relieved that ebooks are becoming more popular because it allows me to save (some) money, but more importantly SPACE. I’ve moved 4 times in the 10 years since college (and will move again in a few months). When I owned a house, I had 3 ceiling-high bookshelves I got when our Borders closed. They were full of books. I spent hours boxing up all those books, deciding which ones I could part with. They are in my parents’ garage for now, but will probably end up being purged again during my next move.

Titania (#489)

I keep books that are personally significant to me and want to keep in my possession/on display. Other than that, on the rare occasion that I buy books, I try to give them away IMMEDIATELY after finishing them. I’m a big user of my local library, which in a way mimics how I grew up–my parents would always buy me books when that was the only present I wanted, but for general, everyday reading we were supposed to go to the library. I never feel guilty about buying books, but seriously, you can read them FOR FREE, so why wouldn’t you? And you get the same lovely browsing effect you do in a bookstore, where what you come in for isn’t necessarily what you leave with.

The Dud Avocado is a book that came at a really perfect time for me too, and I’d forgotten all about it. A stranger literally handed it to me at a cafe in Budapest and said “I think you should have this.” She was right.

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