Monday, 7 October 2013

How book buying habits have changed

Happy Monday!
I often wonder about this, so thought I would ask you all about your own habits. When I was a student, studying language and literature at university, ironically I had no time or money to book non-academic books. Books were also much more expensive back then and a lot less accessible, ie you couldn't buy them in the supermarkets. I remember that the first book I bought after uni, when I got my first pay packet was  Maeve Binchy's The Glass Lake  (my favourite author then and still one of my favourites now) I devoured it in one sitting. I bought it from WH Smith - the only place in the town where I lived where you could buy books.
I still didn't have a great deal of money to play with back then, so it was a few years before I became the book hoarder I am now.

Bookshops - I remember buying books from John Smith & Son, the official academic book shop in Glasgow  in St Vincent St (now closed sadly), I used to visit an independent bookshop in Ayr, when I lived there, on the Sandgate. It, too, has gone now I believe.
This was all back in the '90s, before the emergence of Amazon and online retailers. I went to London with a friend and we spent 4 hours in Waterstones. I bought 17 books!
I was convinced that when a bookshop became available which was handy for me, I would never be out of it. Actually, that wasn't true, although it would be now. Pity most of them have closed down.. Ottakers opened in High St in Ayr, late '90s/early noughties and it was less than 100m from my house, yet I must have been in it only a handful of times (this was possibly due to rarely being home, I was a right social butterfly back then!) With the advent of the out-of-town shopping malls, I became a fan of Borders at Glasgow Fort, and I loved Borders in Buchanan St in Glasgow, too. Loved spending a Thursday evening there.

Supermarkets - Apart from my trip to London, my book glut first happened when I went to Asda to buy milk. It was the closest shop to my house in Ayr. I bought 8 books, mostly chicklit and crime novels, got home all delighted with myself, one Friday evening, went to make myself a coffee and discovered I hadn't bought I had to open some red wine instead!
So began a long love affair with supermarkets and their special offers, 2 for £7. When I moved to Cumbernauld, north of Glasgow, and where I went to school, I had the same love affair with Tesco, as I had had with Asda in Ayr. I could not go shopping without browsing the book aisles and usually buying some. I used to get hacked off if I went to buy a book and there were no new ones that I liked (mainly 'cos I had already bought all the ones that had been released that I liked, which were in the charts!)

Ebay - And then there was Ebay. Ebay...manna from heaven for someone like me back then. I watched the BBC The Big Read in 2003 and decided I had to buy as many of the books I hadn't read as possible. I tried to get them all off Ebay. Couldn't. So I ordered the rest from independent stores or my next big discovery - although I couldn't possibly tell you when I placed my first order with them, as I don't remember exactly - Amazon.

Amazon. Amazon made my life simple. OK, I didn't like that I couldn't leaf through the pages and see if I liked the look of the book, but mainly the blurb was enough for me. But the selection of books they! And the fact I could see info on all the titles..double wow! And I loved that it told me what books were being released soon and made recommendations for me, based on my browsing history. Even now, I add books to my Goodreads TBR (To Be Read) based on the emails Amazon send me and the recommendations which pop up when I log into my account (among many other ways of getting recommendations, of course!)

Charity shops - almost forgot about them - I love a bargain the same as everyone else and I always find it a great way to discover new authors. I might not pay £5 or £6 for a book by an author I don't know, when there are other books out by authors I do know and love, but £1-£2 to take a chance? Sure thing! I often end up buying their back catalogue. I love nothing better than pottering about the various charity shops we have in our town, seeing what I can scoop up that week - it might honestly be 8 years before I get time to read them - seriously - but I like to know I have them!

Foreign bookstores - I love 'em. Barnes & Noble was my all-time favourite. I loved discovering books which never seemed to be available here, or perhaps it's just that they were New York Times bestsellers, but hadn't made it over here in the UK. As I travelled a ridiculous amount overseas with two of my jobs, I became a big fan of Hudson News in the US! Every airport has one I think. I would always buy books there. There was a bookstore in Long Beach, California where I spent ages, but I can't remember the name of it - it might have been a Borders. It was so chilled. Also spent a fair amount of time when visiting friends near Houston in a bookstore. Think that might have been B&N. And, I visited, but didn't buy any books, just bookmarks and cards, at the Washington train station B&N two years ago, which I believe is now closed. I did, however, find an independent bookstore one night when we were out for dinner over there, we'd had a few glasses of wine and I bought about five or six books, including The Giant Book of Farts as a joke present for my OH. And that's just the US. I used to buy books wherever I went in the world - but that's for another post! Suffice to say, in Japan, they wrap your books, in the way you used to cover your school jotters!

E-books - And then, finally, it happened. I've known about electronic books for more than a decade, as I used to work in Electronics. So, I was always at the latest trade show which was showcasing products of the future. I remember not quite being able to work out if e-books were a good thing or not. Sony was the first brand I was taken with, but by the time I worked out if I was going to start reading e-books or not, Amazon had just launched the first Kindle, with the keyboard. After a particularly annoying incident on a long haul flight to Brazil, where the bleepin' thing stopped working, I am pleased to say that Kindle has served me well. I'm surprised it hasn't given up the ghost from overwork! I downloaded a few classics for free and I remember thinking long and hard about which book should be my first paid e-book, quite an honour I felt. Carlos Ruiz Zafon won with The Prince of Mist. Fantastic book. And so started my rather erratic book buying. Now I buy when indie authors I know release books, as often they are in the US/Canada and the paperback prices plus shipping are prohibitive. I also buy indie authors and traditionally published authors on Kindle, if the paper copy is more than £1 dearer. Otherwise, I'd rather have it in paper, thank you very much. That may change soon, as although I negotiated with my OH when we moved house, that one room HAD to be a library, it is overflowing. I do occasionally download a free book, but more often I don't.
I bought some books for World Book Night and I always ask a member of my family to buy me Amazon vouchers for Christmas or my birthday (December, just in case you want to send a card!) and I spent Christmas morning, the early part, ie from 7-8am, downloading books I had on my wishlist. OH happy, as he got to sleep on, without me bugging him that Santa had been!
Plus, even when I am on a no book buying phase (happens rarely), I will still buy an e-book if it's by one of my favourite authors and they are on special. I was lucky enough to pick up two such books last week for 69p each! Told you - bargain hunter!

I still buy books in supermarkets, but less; I still buy them on Amazon, particularly for my nephews - the Julia Donaldson ones for example; and I still visit charity shops. I don't go to Waterstones or bookstores very often anymore, mainly as there aren't any near me, although I do pop in to WH Smith's occasionally.

And I almost forgot; the second hand bookshop. Whatever happened to it? I'm sure there are still some in the west end of Glasgow near the university, but it has been about twenty years since I've been in one.

So, how have your book buying habits changed over the years? Are you an e-book convert, a devotee of the independent bookshop who eschews all other mediums, or has buying books online become your sole way of purchasing?
Would love to hear from you all
Tune in on Friday for an exciting new book review.


  1. Great post, Suz...

    I have to add that I got distracted by TV and movies for years, before I went back to the humble book!

    I love paper still, but since I can get so many free books nowadays to download I only buy those I really want to read (when I have time), or I get books from charity shops & supermarkets! My husband however buys a lot of books on his travels so I have an extensive range of books to read around the house - its finding the time really!

    Since I started writing its a balancing act - and I still like to kick back and watch a film whilst browsing social media.

    I'd say the internet has taken away a lot of my need to read books - the hours go by when you are browsing the web, on twitter, Facebook or playing online scrabble!!!

    How times change...

  2. Excellent post! For me it's mostly Amazon these days - or Waterstones if I'm 'up the city'. 90% Amazon, though, I have to say. Hate myself for all this - thanks for making me realise, I shall start supporting small bookshops again, like I used to!

  3. Susan, I am probably buying less actual books now than I used to. There is a lot of reading material that I have on my Kindle. In the town where I live there is a second hand book store as well as many charity shops selling second hand books. Plus one of the pubs has a book corner where you can bring a book and swap it with one there.

  4. Nice post Sooz. It's almost all eBooks for me. Still a few paperback, but never ever bought a book at supermarket. I do enough impulse buying with adding books to the list.

    I might be luck, but my local library and in a few local streets, there are free books to be found, and sometimes you can pick up a classic for nothing. I really like book fairs, for new and second-hand books. It's the discovery that make me go back.