Thursday, June 09, 2005

To buy or not to buy

I really should stop buying books. It is a financial drain. So what are the solutions aside from borrowing and downloading e-books. Be finicky. Now I know that finecky is a negative term that means giving to much attention to detail. Maybe the better term would be to adopt a demanding or thorough or meticulous framework in purchasing a book. In other set-up a criteria ,standards or measures, where you can decide if the book is to be purchased or not.

If I were to list down my personal criteria in book selection it would be something like this:

Content, I should like the book's content. It should reflect my genuine interest. So my taste would go for certain fiction (fantasy, science fiction, mystery, horror , comics and marchen) and non- fiction (history, aquarium keeping, essays, dictionaries, library-information science tomes, cookbooks and trivia).

Authority, The author's reputation. Is he a good writer? A credible source? Is his reputation good? Judging this requires some reading of the author's work, reading reviews and articles about the authors and insights from friends, family and people you trust. Also you can check the book jacket you will always find something written about the writer, as well as the story for that matter, complete with a photo of said writer posed in his element, there is a wide array of poses a writer can adopt from the standard holding the pipe or smiling or even frowning. Like it or not starting out with the classics is not a bad start - some of my favourite books were required reading during my pre-diet soda years.

Timeliness, this is important for technical and scientific books. Always look at the copyright. It might be a bargain but the information might be outdated. Unless of course you are looking for old books and old information - let's say how to prepare a Mann Hann meal.

Physical quality of the book. Paperbacks although cheap are not designed to last long. The newsprint used will oxidise and turn yellow. And will eventually crumble. Books printed in acid-free paper and that are hard bound lasts longer. Pricey but they do last longer. The most perfect examples of these books are the Bible, present day comic books (Graphic Novels) and most aquarium books. Comic books and the Bible you can understand. Devotees and collectors prize these books. However, aquarium books seemed to have been done that way because of necessity. I have had aquarium books whose pages seem to be laminated in mylar and are virtually water proof. Well considering that most aquarists read the book near or about water this must have been a consideration.

Price, Is the book priced correctly? Is it on sale? Just check the book cover and you will always find the suggested price. This also gives you an idea of the cost and mark-up of the book seller.

Availability of the book. If the book has four or five copies in the store you can probably afford to wait and evaluate the purchase. If it is rare will you be willing to buy it? Rare here is fluid term because unless the book is a protobook or an inculabula its not really rare is it. Books today are published in volumes. So you can probably afford to wait for a better deal. Waiting and haveing the patience of Job in book buying is tricky and more or less depends on your disposition. I have friends who almost fainted when they got to the bookshop to buy their much coveted book only to find someone browsing the book, possibly mulling whether to buy it or not. You can always borrow just make sure you return the book so you can borrow again.

I used this criteria from time to time in order to control my desire to read other books. Sometimes it works sometimes it does not.

Most of the time the over-riding factor seems to be content and price. It also helps that I perused the introduction of the book and the short bio of the author or authors all located inside and outside the book. Worthwhile to check the introduction and glance at the table of contents of the book before deciding to purchase.

Its your money and ultimately your book.

  • Go Back to Harvard Street Cubao


    Blogger eruannie said...

    juned, wonderful criteria! may i link this post to mine for school librarian in action?

    10:30 AM  
    Blogger juned said...

    Sure. And thanks

    11:15 AM  
    Blogger Ivan Chew said...

    Wow. This will get everyone to start thinking like librarians! :)

    I have a less rigorous criteria: (1) It appeals to me (no matter how remote), (2) it costs $0.005 or less per page. Meaning, if the book costs $5, I'll buy it if it's 1000 pages or more. Hence, I buy very few books. The public libraries are mostly where I fulfil my reading needs.

    11:38 AM  
    Blogger eruannie said...

    ivan, you are lucky to have well funded libraries in singapore!

    3:53 PM  
    Blogger juned said...

    Hi Ivan,
    Unfortunately thats true public libraries are not well-funded here.

    Where do you buy your books in Singapore? Do you mostly buy at Borders or the other bookstore inside Takashimaya or the one inside the train station?

    4:22 PM  

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