Why, Yes, I Still Actually Buy Books
Whilst out and about this morning, running errands, I stopped by Jay and Mary’s Book Center, because since I noted yesterday that they often had signed stock of mine, I figured I should go in and actually, you know, sign stock, just in case someone called and asked (it is now all signed, and they have everything in stock except Android’s Dream). And while I was there I also picked up this fine specimen of printed matter, China Miéville’s latest book Kraken, which went on sale here in the US just today. I read it in galley version and it’s great: It’s got squid, London and the end of the world, not necessarily in that order. It’s well worth buying, so I did.
That I actually purchased a book apparently comes as a surprise to a couple of people, since very recently I’ve been asked in all sincerity if I still actually go out and buy books. The question was posed not under the assumption that I am sub-(or post-)literate, but because thanks to The Big Idea and Just Arrived features here on Whatever, I get at least ten books a week sent to me, and often more, which is a) more than I could read and b) would seem to obviate the need and even the desire to go out and buy more of them.
Nevertheless, in fact, I still go out and buy books, and usually printed books, to the tune of several a month. Why? Here are some of the reasons, in order of how they come into my head.
1. Because even though I get sent a lot of books, I don’t get sent every book I’m interested in (alas), and therefore if I want to have those books, I have to go out and buy them.
2. Because some of the books I get sent are in galley or ARC form, which means that if I want a more durable version of the book, I should go out and buy it. Kraken, as noted, was sent to me as a bound galley by its UK publisher — which I deeply appreciated because hey, I got to read it early and I’m a big sloppy Miéville fan — and was already beginning to show signs of wear and tear by the time I was done with it.
3. Because buying books at my local bookseller helps keep that bookseller in business, which is something I have a clear and obvious personal stake in; after all, if authors won’t support their local booksellers, why should they expect anyone else to?
4. Because many of my friends write books (including China), and I think it’s a fine thing to support one’s friends and to help pad their sales.
5. I was a fan of China’s before I knew him, so even if I didn’t know him I would buy the book because buying an author’s work is the most obvious way to let a publisher know you’d like them to keep publishing that particular author.
6. Because in addition to paying the author and the bookseller, I also like paying the editor, the cover artist, the book and cover designers, the copy editor, the publicist, the guys who work at the printer and the people who drive the trucks that deliver the books. Thanks, folks.
7. Because books will look especially fine on those new shelves I just spent a whole lot of money on — and on those shelves I want not just any books, but books I actually like.
8. Because books make great gifts, and I enjoy giving books to other folks, but not the books I get sent because that’s kind of cheap, you know? If I think well enough of a book to want to give it as a gift, I can shell out for the market price.
9. As regards printed books, look, ma: No DRM, and the batteries never run out. I do use and for the most part like electronic books, but at this point for me they are still supplemental to, rather a replacement for, printed books; look at my eBook collection and you’ll see they’re generally copies of printed books I already own. That said, if I have a finished printed version of a book sent to me and I want a portable copy (for example, when I travel to Australia later in the year and am trapped in a plane for an entire day), I’m happy to buy the electronic version for that purpose.
10. Because at this point in my life I can afford books. When I was younger I couldn’t (thank you public libraries for being there) and who knows, maybe when I’m older I might not be able to anymore either (public libraries, hope you’ll still be around). But now I can, and I like spending money that way. Makes me glad my fetish objects of choice are books, and not cars.
So those are some of the reasons that I still buy books, and lots of them.