to buy or not to buy

In the last two weeks, I have been to the book store twice. Each time, I spent somewhere around an hour browsing and agonising over what book I should buy. I don’t really buy that many books (I know that’s completely subjective, but please take my word on that), but the first time was to use up reward points (including bonus anniversary points because I first signed up in the October of a previous year), and the second visit was to use a gift card. So, you see, they were completely necessary visits and acquisitions.

I always have a mental list of books that I would like to own, but I am also very conscious of the fact that I have very limited space to store all these books, and also very limited time in which to read all these books (I easily already own enough books to keep me occupied for over a year without needing to buy or borrow any books). As such, on each visit, I only purchased a single book. For those who are interested, the first was “Love in the Time of Cholera” (Marquez) and the second was “All the Light We Cannot See” (Doerr). I will be extremely surprised if I get around to even starting either of these before the end of the year, so please don’t hold your breath for a review/post on these.

There were plenty of other choices I considered (I could have gotten plenty more books with the gift card) but I forced myself to just select one each time. It was an agonising decision. At some point, however, I did have the thought that I must be pretty lucky if “what book to buy” is the hardest decision I am faced with today.

Apart from wanting to read the book, I also consider a number of other factors when deciding what book(s) to buy. Let’s see what sort of a list I can compile here…

  • Re-read value: If I buy a book, it should be something that I will want to re-read (whether I actually ever re-read it is an entirely different matter)
  • Share value: If I might not necessarily re-read it, I’d like to be able to recommend and lend it to friends, so, in making my decision, I also consider if it is a book that my book-loving friends would read.
  • Aesthetics: Yes, I can be a bit shallow when it comes to books. Of course, this criteria is less important than the first two. It applies more for books that have a number of different editions, and hence a number of different covers.
  • Library availability: If a book is always available at my usual library, I probably won’t bother buying my own copy. However, if a book is always available (or mostly available) but the book itself is really long, I will consider a purchase.
  • Friend libraries: Similar to above: If I know that a friend has a copy of a book I’d like to read, and I know they’re happy to lend it to me, I will not buy my own copy (the book would also have decreased “share value” since I wouldn’t really be able to share it with someone who already has a copy)
  • Text size: I don’t currently need glasses, but I feel like I’m going to need some pretty soon. Small text puts too much strain on my eyes, so I’d prefer larger text. However, I’d say this isn’t really an important criteria – more of a bonus than anything else.
  • Quotability: I may be more inclined to buy books that have gotten a lot of great reviews, or books that other people (maybe fellow bloggers) quote from a lot. Similarly, if I think that I may want to have a certain book on-hand in future so that I can extract quotes or just generally refer back to something, I am more likely to buy the book.
  • Potential sentimentality: I can be ridiculously sentimental sometimes, so I’m more inclined to buy a book if I reckon I will get attached to it (even if I never re-read it)

Well, ok, that list turned out a bit longer than I was expecting it to… But at least now it’s a bit clearer why I had to agonise over a book purchase for a whole hour. And there are probably even more criteria I could add to the list (but I won’t right now because it’s late (past midnight now) and I’m tired).

And, believe it or not, this wasn’t what I had originally planned to write this post about. This is actually a tangent. A tangential post. Hmm… maybe I can make that “a thing”… Anyway, I’m too tired to write the actual post now, so this tangential post will just have to do for the time being.