What Happens When You Stop Buying Books?

Photo from Jeremy Brooks

Photo from Jeremy Brooks

Books are cheap, right? Most paperbacks can be picked up for around $10, which is not going to put a major dent in the budget. However, if you’re an avid reader like I am, the money you spend on books can really add up. So I decided to experiment.

I have been compiling a “To Read” list for some time now. I took the first 33 items off the list, and attempted to find them at the public library.

This is what happened (colour-coded for your convenience):

9 Obtained – Got the book immediately
3 E-Obtained – Available immediately through e-book or e-audiobook
20 Requests/Holds – I will have to wait*
1 Unavailable – Not in the library system

Cherry Blossoms by Wes Funk
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma*
How to Develop Self Confidence & Influence by Dale Carnegie
How to Start Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
The Weight of Small Things by Sherri Wood Emmons
The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year by Sue Townsend*
Y the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz
I’ll Take What She Has by Samantha Wilde
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Losing It by Cora Carmack
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon
The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde
Building Wealth All-in-one for Canadians for Dummies
My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
The Dinner by Herman Koch
One Good Hustle by Billie Livingston
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Matched by Allie Condie
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
Professional Blogging for Dummies by Susan J. Getgood
Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin
Constance Harding’s (rather) Startling Year by Ceri Radford
The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsay
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

*Two books have already become available since I requested them yesterday. They are ready for me to pick up.

Here are some points to consider the next time you’re planning on buying a book:

I Saved $546 – or More

I knew it was great that library books are free, but until now I hadn’t crunched the numbers. $546 is the total cost if you were willing to purchase the books online from a major bookstore (which would mean 3-14 days for delivery). However, if you were buying these books in-store, the convenience would have cost you $678.29! Is there anyone that wouldn’t like to have any extra $500-600 in their pocket? Does this not make buying books seem crazy?

Let’s do an estimate and say that I can read 33 books in three months. Averaging over a year, that is an estimated savings of $2,184! Granted, that is a very rough estimate, but I think it paints a picture. If I were to live 70 more years (which is not that unlikely, considering it would make me my grandmother’s current age) – my roughly calculated lifetime savings of never buying books would be $152,880! Unreal! And that doesn’t even delve into the possibility of that money being invested and compounding over time… yikes!

Immediate Gratification

Not only were the 9 books and 3 e-books free, but I received them the very instant I wanted them! Yes, I had to hunt them down, but I had a map (ahem, call number) and who doesn’t like a treasure hunt? The books that were not available, I have requested. This simply means that I get to anticipate their arrival! And if a book can be considered a vacation for the mind, this wait period will only serve to make me happier; vacation anticipation has been shown to boost happiness for several weeks. I’ll admit – I’m pretty psyched about being on the wait list for Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. So even though I’m waiting, I’m getting instant happiness. Win!

Single-handedly Supporting Your Local Library

Libraries keep track of everything. Seriously. It would seem kind of insane if it weren’t so darn important. The “circulation statistics” compile information about how often books go out, and these stats can be very useful when a library is trying to explain just how important and well-used they are. This is especially crucial during times of budget cuts. By borrowing books from your local library, you’re advocating for the library in a small but powerful way.

Better Than Owning

For those of you that fear you will not have time to read a book before it needs to be returned, fear not! With three-week loan periods, and the ability to renew your book three times, you have 9 weeks to read the book. If you can’t read it in 9 weeks, face it – you’re never going to read it, and it’s a good thing it won’t be collecting dust on your shelf. If you like to own your favourite books, there’s a better option – keep track of them on the Goodreads digital bookshelf.

I challenge you to use your public library! You might be surprised with all it can do for you. And if you choose to undertake an experiment like mine, post your results below.



4 thoughts on “What Happens When You Stop Buying Books?

  1. There is also Inter-Library Loan for the one book you couldn’t find. If a library doesn’t have the book you want often they can borrow it from another library in state and even sometimes out of state. Great Post!

    • Excellent point. We should also add that libraries are usually very receptive to public requests – if they don’t have a book, they’re often very willing to purchase it!

  2. Libraries really need support just now so I enjoyed your post. George Orwell wrote an interesting little essay about the cost of books in 1946 = “Books Versus Cigarettes” and concluded that reading was the cheapest of all recreations with the possible exception of listening to the radio!

    • I love your comment! Mention of “Books Versus Cigarettes” is very appropriate. Reading becomes the cheapest hobby of all when you procure your books from the library!! No need to own a radio, haha.

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