Andrew J Brandt
Why I've Stopped Buying Books
There are few places that I frequent more often than the bookstore. At least once a week, I like to take a trip to one of my local bookstores to peruse the new releases, the hardbacks, the paperbacks. Maybe even take a nostalgic trip to my childhood and stroll through the Star Wars aisle. Hundreds of dollars spent by stacking books in my hands and taking them to the checkout counter, where I would then take them home, place them on my shelves and promise myself that I would read them all—eventually.
Now, I am biased. It is important to me, as someone who makes a living by making things up and writing them down, for people to buy books. To go to the bookstore, to purchase books (preferably book written by me), to share them with their friends who will then go out and buy more. And I am just as biased as a reader. I love to read new books, to discover new writers, to find a new favorite.
But here's the thing: I have often found myself buying books just for the sake of buying them. And, sure, there is a definite enjoyment in buying books and reading them—you could even say that those two acts (reading books and buying books) are wholly separate hobbies. So what happens to those books? Some of them are read. Some are placed on the bookshelves. Some find a new home in our Little Free Library. But many are forgotten, gathering dust, sworn to someday be read. Which, I feel is a sad existence for a piece of art that an author spent countless hours creating. It's a sad fate that I am not proud to have forced upon too many books.
So, I've stopped buying books*. But that doesn't mean I've stopped reading. Instead, I have been taking advantage more and more of my local library. The Amarillo Public Library is an incredible resource for readers, offering new releases, popular reads and of course a backlist of almost anything you could think of. Feeling like going through Michael Crichton's bibliography? They have it. On a John Green kick? Get 'em all. And if they don't have it in their shelves, they'll find it for you through interlibrary loan. There is something magical about going into the library and losing yourself in the stacks and rows of books with no expectation of spending money. Fill your tote, check out, read them and take them back when you're done. It's so easy.
And you're probably thinking—Andrew, you're an author. If people get your books for free from the public library, doesn't that mean you're not making money from those sales?
The answer is: you're right. Every time a reader borrows a book from the library, the author does not see money from a sale. I only make money once—from when the library purchases the book. But it is so much more important to me for someone to discover my books through the public library than not at all. And maybe that new reader will come to a book signing event, will be able to have a one-on-one interaction. That is worth more than any sticker price.
So, that's why I've stopped buying books. At least stopped buying books* for myself. I still purchase books all the time, mostly to put in our Little Free Library or to share with friends. Both keeping my shelves from being overcrowded with good intentions, but also because I am currently enjoying supporting my local library.
As you've probably noticed, there are a few asterisks scattered through this post. That's because I do still buy books, but with a corollary—if it's a friend's new release and/or if it's autographed. I love supporting my author friends and anytime they have a new release, I always want to be first in line for the autographed copy. My bookshelves these days are full of signed books from my friends, and I will always support them with my social media and my dollars. Plus, what makes a better gift than an author-signed copy of a great book??