Why Are Books So Expensive?! (Or Why I Rely On My Local Library)

I’m lucky enough to live a 20-minute walk from my local library, which is also one of the larger branches which stays relatively up-to-date. On top of that, I have a parent who works at the library and doesn’t mind picking up books for me, making it very easy for me to access most of the books I want to read. We’re also lucky enough to get many books through book sales, and occasionally for free when the library is discarding them anyway. As a result, it’s become pretty rare for me to actually buy books.

After thinking about it, I’ve realized there is one main reason underlying all others for why I don’t buy many books anymore: they are just so expensive! There are only a few authors that are auto-buys for me, the main one being Jodi Picoult. Her most recent book came out last October, and due to my irrational need for all books by the same author to be in the same format (paperback, in this case), I decided to wait. Now this was frustrating enough on its own since Small Great Things had already been delayed, so I had already waited quite a while for it to be released at all. It eventually reached the point where I broke down and decided to just get the hardcover version instead…only to discover that the book cost about $30. Jodi Picoult is by far my favourite author, and one of the only ones that I will automatically buy without reading first, but I just can’t justify spending that much on one book.

It was the same for the most recent Nicholas Sparks book (Two by Two) also. Although he’s not quite such a favourite of mine anymore, I still tend to collect all of his books. In this case, I do generally go for the hardcover anyway. Again, I went online to Amazon and went into the bookstore to see if they had it — and again, it cost $30! At least YA books were a little more reasonable. Most of the YA books I was interested in cost $10 – $15 each, a price that I am more willing to pay. I realized that there are a few reasons why I am hesitant to pay for books, especially the more expensive ones:

  • I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy it – When I spend money on a book, I want to be fairly confident that I’m going to like it. It’s pretty frustrating to spend hard-earned money on something you didn’t enjoy at all. Instead, I now use the library to read many of the books I’m interested in and decide whether they are worth buying.
  • I’ve already read it recently – The other side of this is that once I’ve read the book, I’m in no rush to buy it immediately. Even if I really loved it and would like to own a copy, I end up putting it off thinking “Well, I just read it so I probably won’t read it again for a while.”
  • I don’t have much room for more books – My bookshelves are a constant source of frustration. I probably have about twice as many books as I have room on my shelves for, and this is after weeding through and removing any that I had no intention of reading. Even when I want more books, I want them to be on a shelf, not in stacks on the floor where they might get damaged
  • With such easy access to the library, I’d rather save the money while I can – That’s not to say that I won’t buy any books or support my favourite authors, but it’s definitely less of a rush. It gives me the chance to decide whether I really want the book badly enough to own a copy, and in a sense how much I’d be willing to spend. I’m willing to pay more for books that I really enjoyed (but up to a certain limit).
  • It gives me more time to make choices about what to buy, and get better value for my money – My TBR on Goodreads currently sits at around 1400 – 1500 books. If I bought every book just because I wanted to read it, or even just half the books, I would end up spending most of my money! Being a little more hesitant to spend, I have time to really think about which ones I want most and to take advantage of sales or deals the rare time they come up.

It’s most frustrating the few times there is a book that I really want to get right away, and I have to weigh the price against how badly I want to read it. I don’t think there has ever been a case yet where I could justify spending $25+ dollars on one book. The only exception was The Addams Family – An Evilution, a book tracing the Addams Family’s history since it’s start as cartoons in the New Yorker. Even then, that book was a birthday gift from family who are well aware of my Addams Family obsession. Generally, I try to wait for my bookstore to offer sales or 2 for 1 deals to make things a little more affordable.

In the mean time, I’m perfectly happy to rely on my local library system to try out a variety of books. My library allows up to 150 books on your hold list at a time — perfect for me when I’m trying to do multiple reading challenges. They’re also pretty great about buying books that library users request. This year alone, I’ve asked for probably in the range of 20 books to be added to the catalogue, and they have bought all but two which were somehow out of print (despite being from 2012). We can even ask them to buy books and pause the request until we’re ready to read the book. With such a great system, it can be hard sometimes to justify buying books.

I’m sure there will be some people out there who will suggest switching over to e-books or other formats. Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer having a physical copy of my books. I know there are many advantages to ebooks and other formats, although I’m not sure if cost is one of them, but for me there is nothing like holding a real book in my hands!


One thought on “Why Are Books So Expensive?! (Or Why I Rely On My Local Library)

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Tuesdays: 10 Books That Caught My Attention at the Bookstore While on Vacation | Abyssal Librarian

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