I’ve been thinking a lot about how and where I obtain books.
I use the word “obtain” on purpose. About 40% of the books on my to-be-read shelf are given to me by editors, or they appear in the registration bag at conferences, or I pick them up for free at conferences. (Note to anyone who loves to read romance: You can easily “earn” back your registration fee for Romance Writers of America Nationals in free books — even though that conference costs nearly $500 to attend.)
Another 30% of the books on my shelf come from friends or family, either as gifts, or as recommended reads. Some of those books are given “no strings attached” while others must be returned.
I purchase the remaining 30% of what I read. If I had been writing this post ten years ago, I’d tell you that I ordered from Amazon very occasionally — because I had a gift card, or because I wanted a seasonal book out of season. (I remember, in particular, a book of holiday quilting designs that I wanted in July, so that I had time to, um, make a quilt for the holidays.) The vast majority of my purchases, though, were made in bookstores, most notably in two large Borders stores — one near my office and one near my house.
My, how things change in a decade. Both of those Borders stores are, of course, closed. (And I’m still in mourning. And I don’t want to talk about it. Pout.) The Barnes & Noble stores near me carry very little new stock, particularly in genre (they’re big on remainders, and fairly robust on literature and children’s books and toys). Most of the independents have closed, and the one large one that is still open carries even less genre than it used to.
And so, the vast majority of my book purchases are online. In fact, a fair amount of my book purchases are electronic — I download the files to my e-reader, sparing myself the need to find more space on my over-crowded bookshelves.
Case in point: When my now-husband and I planned our honeymoon, we went to one of our dear, departed Borders, and we spent an evening browsing books, each choosing five volumes. After 1.5 hours, we met up in the cafe, shared dessert, and reviewed our selections. Two of them were duplicates (see, we are well-suited for each other!), so we bought 8 books and carried them on our trip, sharing them back and forth.
When we planned a trip to the Baltics, last September, we also went to a bricks-and-mortar store. We also selected five volumes each. We also conferred in the coffee shop, selected a total of six, returned all ten books to the shelves, and headed home to buy them as e-books. We essentially used the physical store as a catalog store, to purchase our goods online. And yeah, we felt a little guilty.
Bricks-and-mortar and online aren’t the only models for bookselling; they’re just the most common. My current release, a Harlequin romance called The Mogul’s Maybe Marriage, is enjoying substantial sales through a “book club”, a group of Harlequin subscribers who buy every book published by my imprint, every month, with the books delivered to their door (or to their electronic reading device.)
What about you? Where do you obtain the books that you read? All things being equal, where would you like to obtain them?