Changes in Book Buying

As I drift (slowly) toward independent publishing, I’ve been following several discussion loops and reading articles about the rapid changes in the publishing industry. I haven’t given as much thought to the changes in book selling in the last few years, although I did muse about the rapid decline in the number of local bookshops in my area (Where Have All the Bookstores Gone?)—over three years ago (January 28, 2012—goodness, I’ve been sounding off here for while now!)

 

The other day, though, I made a decision that brought home my own changing book buying habits. I have belonged to three of the Doubleday Book Club divisions for many years. When I joined the Mystery Guild and the Science Fiction Book Club in the early 1970s, I was living in New Iberia, Louisiana, and the nearest bookstore was in Lafayette, about twenty miles to the north. We didn’t have much money, and books were expensive. But the well-made hardbacks from the Doubleday mail order clubs were very reasonable, and I ordered a lot of them. (A good many are still with me.)

 

I kept right on ordering from them (eventually adding the Rhapsody club for romances) as we moved from Louisiana to Texas (where I had access to more bookstores, but not much more money), and as the book clubs moved from mail order to the Internet. Once in a while the opt-out method would fail me, and I’d get a book or two I didn’t order, but that was rare.

 

Then, over the years, Amazon happened. Ebooks happened. Over the last year, the Doubleday clubs responded with changes. Now, instead of opting out on specific books, one opts out on “member credits,” automatic charges to one’s credit card (no more checks, no more mail orders), good for one book each, with free shipping on orders of two or more. The standard book price has also risen to $13.99 (how old am I? I remember the Doubleday Dollar Book Club, where I was introduced to the novels of Phyllis A. Whitney).

 

I soon got tired of opting out of those charges (and the idea of supporting their cash flow in advance of ordering books annoyed me). Maybe it was time to abandon my old friends. I looked at my Quicken file and discovered it has been years since I ordered regularly from any of the clubs. Yes, time to cut that cord.

 

I belong to Amazon Prime, so I never think about shipping charges, and I’ve gotten used to pre-ordering books and having them show up in my mail box on release day (would that I had time to read them that quickly). Amazon and Goodreads are very clever about letting me know when an author I enjoy has a new book out. I buy a lot of ebooks, too, for my Kindle (Doubleday has added ebooks recently, but only through some Android app). And maybe my tastes have changed, and my favorite authors just aren’t showing up in the clubs these days.

 

So last week I emailed my membership cancellation to Doubleday. Amazon meets my needs, for the most part. And there’s the Book Depository for British editions, and Alibris for out-of-print books (got one from them just last week). But I still felt a bit of a twinge at parting ways with such old friends.

 

Meanwhile, I still have all those recently culled books sitting in my storage room (it will be a library again some day, I swear, just as soon as I get all those boxes out of there), waiting for a trip to Half Price Books, and I still hit the local Barnes & Noble once a month or so.

 

Where are you buying books these days?

books

A Visit to the Book Store

Every once in a while I remind myself that if we book buyers don’t buy at least some of our books at the remaining brick and mortar book stores, we have only ourselves to blame if those stores disappear.  So yesterday I drove over to the local Barnes & Noble, looking for two books in particular, but open to browsing.  And I didn’t even have a gift card.

The up side of book store shopping is good old instant gratification.  Yes, that’s always available on your e-reader, but if you want a physical book, even Amazon will make you wait a few days.

The down side, in a strange way, is the aforementioned browsing.  When I look for something on line, I usually know what I’m looking for, at least within limits.  When I wander through the aisles at B&N, I’m haunted by the knowledge that I’d really like to read about half of what I see, in spite of all those running feet of unread books waiting at home.  Cozy mysteries, which I love, seem to be taking over the racks, with backgrounds involving cooking, knitting, quilting, jewelry, witchcraft, and heaven knows what else.  They all sound like fun, and I will never get to most of them.

So I tend to feel a bit overwhelmed in a brick and mortar book store, and some times I go in with metaphorical blinkers on, protecting me from temptation.

Bad MonkeyThe first book that caught my eye as I walked in was Bad Monkey, the latest novel by Carl Hiaasen.  I’ve read all of Hiaasen’s hilariously wild novels, and I couldn’t pass this one up.  Even after reading the flap, I have no idea what part the titular monkey plays in the story, and I don’t care.  Perhaps because I lived in South Florida, where all Hiaasen’s tales are set, I have an extra appreciation for the ambiance, even though I haven’t been back in many years.

Then I went looking for the books I’d actually come in for.  The first was The Lotus Palace, by Jeannie Lin, who has proved The Lotus Palacethat there is in fact a market for romances set in ninth century China.  I’ve read several of her short novels and novellas set in that era and enjoyed them all.  The Lotus Palace is a longer book dealing with the courtesan culture of the Tang Dynasty, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

The Sound and the FurryNext on my list was The Sound and the Furry, Spencer Quinn’s latest installment in the adventures of Chet and Bernie Little, detectives extraordinaire.  Chet, who narrates the stories, is a dog who flunked out of police K9 training (“something about a cat,” as he vaguely recalls), and Quinn just nails his fuzzy, easily distracted, and totally loyal point of view.  I have all the previous Chet and Bernie mysteries on my shelf, and I was delighted to find this one (its official release date is still two days away).  The earlier stories have been set in an unnamed valley in the desert west (Bernie worries a lot about water conservation), but this time the team is headed for New Orleans.

I don’t read as much science fiction as I once did (but then I don’t seem to have time to read as much of anything as I used Mistto), but I let myself wander down those aisles, too, and there I spotted a novel by Susan Krinnard.  I read several of Krinnard’s futuristic romances when I was first introduced to the subgenre, but that was quite a few years ago.  The novel I picked up on Saturday, Mist, is about a Valkyrie trying to live a normal life in contemporary San Francisco.  I’m betting the Fates won’t allow that.

I know, I know, I didn’t need four more books for the TBR shelf, not after that long evening I spent reorganizing the embarrassingly large collection I already have.  But need doesn’t really come into the equation with books, does it?  At least I spread them out: a romance, a mystery, and a science fiction/fantasy.  I have no idea how to categorize, or even describe, Carl Hiaasen, but I recommend his books wholeheartedly.

Abibliophobia Strikes Again

Abibliophobia

I’ve suffered from abibliophobia all my life, but until recently I had no idea some kindred soul had coined a name for the problem.  Mind you, there’s no chance of running out of reading material in my house.  Along with the shelves of book I Really Want To Read, there are whole walls of books I can’t give up because I might want to read them again one day.  But I never go anywhere that might involve a waiting room or a meal eaten alone without a book (or these days my Kindle).

The truth is, I’m an incurable bookaholic, and I have no desire to change.  There are far more dangerous (or anti-social) addictions.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped at the local Barnes & Noble, armed with a Christmas gift card, and bought one book, a lovely large volume called Steampunk: An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and Other Victorian Visions by Brian J. Robb.  I’d spotted the book on line and bought it brick and mortar; on the same trip I spotted several books at the store to order on line.  I have gift cards for Amazon, too, and they stretch farther.

Yesterday I made another stop at Barnes & Noble, gift card balance in hand, but I didn’t buy anything.  The particular book I was looking for hadn’t hit the shelves yet, and I knew that the box of books I’d ordered from Amazon was due to arrive.  And sometimes I find a bookstore the size of B&N overwhelming.  So many, many books that I would like to read.  So many, many books that I will never have time to read.  So many, many books that I should be writing myself.

book pileWhen I got home from my errand-running rounds, the big box of books from Amazon was waiting on my doorstep.  Four of the books are recently released romances by my Firebird sisters (that group is beginning to make me feel like a serious underachiever!):  Highland Surrender by Tracy Brogan, Midnight Shadows by Carol J. Post, and two by Kim Law, Caught on Camera and Sugar Springs.

Beguiled, by Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand, is a romantic suspense novel set in Charleston.  Dee used it as an example in her workshop on research, and it was the only one of her books I didn’t have, so when I saw it on sale at Amazon, I clicked it into my cart.  Darynda Jones’ latest tale, Fourth Grave Beneath my Feet is the latest release in her series.  I’m running behind on those; I’ve read First Grave on the Right (a Golden Heart winner), but Fourth Grave will be joining Second and Third on the TBR pile.

For pure mystery, I’d ordered Aaron Elkin’s latest Gideon Oliver novel, Dying on the Vine.  I’ve been reading this series since the beginning.  I’ve also read Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone novels since the beginning (the latest is wating for me), so I couldn’t resist The Bughouse Affair, the first in a new historical mystery series set in 1890s San Francisco by Muller and her husband, Bill Pronzini.

I should be able to hold off the Heartbreak of Abibliophobia for a good while yet.  Say, the next twenty-five years or so.

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