A bore’s guide to buying a book

How to delay your book purchasing decisions in a way that is frugal & only mildly unhealthy.

For the last couple of years I’ve been trying hard not to fetishise books.

They’re my major consumer vice. I don’t mean that books as such are a vice. But as a commodity, they disarm my FIRE defences. I forget about whether I’m likely to read it any time soon, or if I’ll re-read it – surely the only good reasons to own a book. Instead, I get stuck on the blurb. I can’t imagine how I could have an enjoyable week without owning that conveniently priced and nicely covered object.

When I moved out of my last flat I gave hundreds away to local charity shops. I went full Marie Kondo on them, and mostly don’t regret it.

At that time the great revelation to me was libraries. I could get books for free from public libraries, and even sneak in to university libraries to get hold of the harder to find texts. This shouldn’t have been a revelation because I spent a shit load of time in libraries as a kid.

Unfortunately coronavirus has screwed that up, and I find myself gnawing on my nails in front of an Amazon wish list.

So I came up with the idea of scoring every book in the wish list according to some desire killing criteria.

The idea is that it would (a) feel productive and (b) delay bad spur of the moment purchases, while making sure I only buy what I really need during lockdown.

I’ve scored between 1 and 3 (higher being better) on these factors:

  • How soon do I want to read it? 3 = it’ll go in my next four books to read, 1 = in 8 months +
  • Will I read it multiple times? 3 = I definitely will, 1 = probably not
  • Is it pricey? 3 = it’s £6 or less inc. delivery, 1 = it’s £12+ inc. delivery

Here’s the spreadsheet I’m using, complete with the current list of potential purchases (62 at the time of writing). It’s overwhelmingly boring history books.

I did warn you. This is a bore’s guide. You know if you’re a bore; embrace it.

Ps. if you’re looking for something academic to read then JSTOR are allowing people to read up to 100 journal articles for free until the end of June. JSTOR collate articles from loads of academic journals. These usually cost a lot of money.

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