I buy a lot of books. I will never read them all. My psychiatrist is working with me on the issue, but it looks as if change is unlikely. I will probably keep on buying too many books. I also buy DVDs. I will never watch them all. So be it. We all have our demons. But since I am also a tightwad, I try to buy my books and DVDs as economically as I can.
So far I have discovered three good places to buy books online. I will list them in alphabetical order, then discuss ebooks (a word which conveniently falls in the right place alphabetically).
1/Abe Books is a great source for books at reasonable prices. I used to order automatically from Amazon. Since discovering Abe Books, I can comparison shop. Abe is frequently less expensive, and the amount saved can add up quickly. I don’t think Abe offers DVDs. In my most recent online book purchase, Abe led the pack in number of items I purchased, and by a pretty wide margin.
2/Alibris offers both books and DVDs (also VHS stuff–be sure you know what you are ordering). In my most recent order, Alibris was best in DVD prices. But you can also get a very good price on many books at Alibris.
3/Amazon offers both books and DVDs. They have a very wide selection. I used to order only from them. However, the discovery of Abe Books and Alibris has been a revelation. You can frequently get a better price at Abe or Alibris. Not always, however. Prices occasionally come down at Amazon, over time. Items which didn’t exist suddenly become available. On my most recent order, a book I despaired of ever finding for a reasonable price suddenly was available for a total cost of $4.99. I still am not quite sure that book really exists for that price, but I’ll find out in a few days if the book actually arrives. [The book subsequently arrived quickly with no problems.] One benefit of Amazon is that sometimes you can financially support a website you want to support. Click on the Amazon icon at the website you like–if the icon is there, that is. That will take you to Amazon. After you place your Amazon order the website from which you clicked on Amazon will get a small cut and there is no extra cost to you. Of course if you use an Amazon credit card, that provides enormous savings in the long run–they convert your points earned into dollars off on your Amazon purchase. You can buy a lot more than books and DVDs at Amazon. If you buy enough stuff, maybe Amazon Prime would save you money in the long run.
What I have started to do, is to comparison shop pretty carefully. I have my written list of potential book/DVD purchases. I go to Abe, and note down the best price available. I go to Alibris and do the same. Then I go to a website I want to support, click on the Amazon icon, and check the prices out at Amazon, buying from Amazon the items on which they offer the best price. Then I go back to Alibris, and purchase from them what offered the best price. Finally, back to Abe, where I order, you guessed it, the items which offered the best price. Don’t delay too long, however. An item which is reasonably priced might be scooped up by somebody else. You might be able to get coupons from any of the three companies, for further savings.
As one of my friends said about his business dealings, “Attention must be paid.” This is also true when ordering books. Mistakes can happen. Overcharges can occur accidentally. Books can fail to arrive. Recently I was overcharged a significant amount. I am convinced it was unintentional, but at first I failed to remember that “Attention must be paid,” and if that had continued I would have lost a bunch of money. I noticed the problem, and the correction was prompt and courteous. Keeping records as complete as possible, and checking the amount charged on each book, are both helpful.
4/Ebooks (electronic books) can be a very economical way to obtain books–after you have made the original investment in buying a reading device such as a Kindle. I don’t own a Kindle or any other kind of reading device. However, I think such a device would be an excellent complementary way to read books you don’t necessarily need to own in paper. And if you enjoy a certain ebook enough, you can always decide to make a paper purchase as well. There are some excellent sources for ebooks. A group called manybooks.net offers free and discounted ebooks. Their selection is enormous. I checked out several authors of potential interest to me, and the number of books available was astonishing. Project Gutenberg offers 54,586 free ebooks. When I checked today, they offered the complete works of Mark Twain, and 131 items by Alexandre Dumas (the father). Those are just two examples.
Some ebooks are not necessarily free, but they are very inexpensive. Amazon offers a lot of ebooks for $.99. Other ebooks are moderately priced. I noticed today that Abe Books was offering an ebook of Life Is Life: And Other Tales and Episodes, by Gwendoline Keats (pen name Zack) for $9.99. Not exactly cheap, but she is a favorite author of mine and I am glad to see that her books are available in a form slightly less expensive than paper. (All five of her books can also be read for free on the Internet! I think her Tales of Dunstable Weir can be downloaded for free.)
The books that I self-publish in paper are also all available in an ebook form. For a long time I wasn’t sure how to price them. As a result about two or three of them are priced too high. The others are all inexpensive, ranging down to $1.99. If someone buys one of my books at any price, I am thrilled. Any writer wants readers, however he can get them.
I hope to purchase an electronic reading device someday, but only after one of my computer guru friends gives me extensive advice face to face, explaining everything in simple words of one or two syllables as one would when dealing with the meanest intelligence. One of my purposes in life is to give other a people a good laugh and a chance to feel good about themselves. My incompetence with the computer and other technology provides a service to my friends and acquaintances.
It seems to me that books are crucial to preserving and, who knows, possibly even extending Christian civilization. We are to love God with our minds. Jesus Christ said the foremost commandment was, ‘”‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'”‘ (Matthew 22:37) If we are unwilling to exercise our minds, we can’t be too shocked if our civilization begins to slip away from us. (Hmm. Maybe that’s part of the reason some really bad things have been happening. It’s just a theory.) Treat a book to lunch today, or at least take a book to lunch today. Buy books as inexpensively as you can today, so that you can buy more books tomorrow.