Book Buying Habits – A Questionnaire

I found this over at The Terror of Knowing. It looks like an interesting set of questions. Hope you enjoy reading my answers!

Where do you buy your books from?
Most of the books I buy are second hand, usually from local charity shops, second hand bookshops and sometimes eBay, Abebooks or Alibris. I don’t buy too many books from new bookshops, mostly because of the price of new publications, though if there’s something new that I want to get quite quickly, I’ll use Amazon or go to my local new bookshops.

Just on this point, I am sometimes conflicted about using Amazon to buy items – I would generally prefer to give the custom to local independent businesses, but unfortunately the price of new books in shops often can’t compare to the lower prices that can sometimes be found on Amazon. There’s a huge discussion to be had here about market ethics and tax avoidance… but that’s not for this post.

Do you ever pre-order books and if so, do you do this in-store or online?
Not very often. In the last couple of years I can think of only two books that I’ve pre-ordered, and those were The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost and the 33⅓ book on Sleater-Kinney‘s album Dig Me Out, both pre-ordered through Amazon using birthday or christmas gift certificates. I very rarely read new fiction, so I don’t really keep up to date with new books, so pre-ordering isn’t something I usually bother with.

On average, how many books do you buy a month?
This is a tough question to answer. I probably buy one or two books through eBay or elsewhere every few months, and I visit local charity shops maybe once every couple of weeks, and usually bring home three or four cheap paperbacks. I’ll buy a maximum of one new book per month, but this is rare. Otherwise, a trip to Hay-on-Wye will send with me bringing home between eight and ten books…. but no month is the same, so it’s very difficult to get an average number. Let’s say something like ten to twelve. Maybe.

Do you use your local library?
As much as possible. I love libraries and I think they are hugely important to local communities. I’ve been a library user since I was very young. I live in a different county to where I work, so I’m a member of two different county library services, plus my occupation allows me to take home anything up to thirty-two(!) university library books at a time. I probably have something between ten and fifteen library books at home at any given moment. These are usually hard to find books, books that are now out of print, books that are prohibitively expensive, or even just things that look interesting that I’d like to take a closer look at. I’ve found some of the best books I’ve ever read by just browsing the library shelves.

Unfortunately, I’m not great at remembering the due dates of these books, so I usually have to pay a fine every time I visit. I can’t really complain about that – a few pounds for ten books or so a month seems like quite a decent subscription service…

If so, how many do you borrow at a time?
Whenever I visit the library, I normally come away with five or six books – usually something like two graphic novels for quick reads, one or two reference books (mostly on music, horror, folklore or history), one novel I’ve been meaning to read and possibly something picked up based on the author, or cover, or publisher alone.

What’s your opinion on library books?
The same as my opinion on any other books, I suppose. I’m not sure how to answer this question. I do like getting out books that have evidently been well read, or scribbled in, or sometimes looking at the borrowed dates (A couple of years ago I borrowed the first edition of Shirley Jackson‘s The Lottery from my university library, with a 1949 newspaper cutting of a Jackson review glued to the inside cover… that kind of thing is so interesting to see).

How do you feel about charity shop/second hand books?
Most of my books are second hand and I generally much prefer buying second hand books to new books. They’re often quite cheap (which translates to: you can buy lots of them) and it’s really nice to see different versions of a book you may already know quite well. In the past I’ve been lucky and found whole series of books for a good price. I also really enjoy browsing in charity shops – there’s often such a strange mix of genres and publishers, plus the stock turnaround is pretty rapid. There a few charity shops near me that change their book selections every couple of weeks.

Do you keep your read and TBR pile together/on the same bookshelf or not?
My bookshelves are a complete mess, but that’s clearly how I like it. Recent purchases are piled up on shelves or anywhere I can find a space and then, as I move around and look through books I’m planning to read, they eventually all get mixed together. The upper shelves are normally the place to store my “read” books, but lately the shelf space has been invaded by new/TBR books and all sense of organisation is thrown out the window. I do find this kind of lack of any meaningful organisation to be quite interesting through… if you ever looked at my bookshelf you might come across a cache of weird sci-fi in the corner of one shelf, and elsewhere you might see a broken-up series of 90s slacker comix. Essentially, my bookshelves look like some kind of ramshackle second hand shop with all kinds of weird stuff in every corner.

Do you plan to read all the books you own?
That’s the plan! My personal reading challenges have slowly been growing over the last few years (I’m planning to read 65 books this year), but the TBR pile keeps growing – a condition that many bookworms share with me, I’m sure. Still, I only really buy a book if I think it’s likely I’ll read it one day… now it’s just finding the time and patience. I do quite like to look back across my shelves and suddenly see a book I can’t remember buying, but still looks really interesting. It’s like a kind of personal bookshop geared towards my own interests, in that sense.

What do you do with books that you own and that you’ll feel you’ll never read/enjoy?
I don’t really have very many of these. I don’t tend to buy books on a whim, and even books that I suspect I won’t enjoy are still on my TBR list.

Have you ever donated books?
I can’t say that I have donated very many books at all. I am a kind of low-level hoarder, and I get hung up on the worry that something, once given away, will become highly desirable in the near future. Fortunately for me (but unfortunately for my girlfriend) this means an ever growing number of books, magazines and comics (and records).

Have you ever been on a book buying ban?
No. I might limit myself to a spending limit if I know I’ll be looking in a lot of bookshops, but I wouldn’t ban myself from buying anything I’m interested in. Maybe when the house starts to collapse in on itself due to the sheer weight of my bookshelves.

Do you feel like you buy too many books?
I really don’t know. I don’t feel like I buy that many books, given the amount of books I (try to) read each year. I don’t feel as though I have a compulsion to buy as many books as possible, but I’ll certainly not deprive myself if I find a book that seems particularly interesting. It’s pretty rare that I’ll spend over £10 on a book (I’d say the average price of a book in my collection is around £3-4), so I’m not worried about the expense as such. I think maybe I just need more, bigger bookshelves.



  1. Enjoyed reading this Robert. Lucky you for a) having access to such good library resources – ours here are not great for books beyond the usual popular titles b) charity shops with a good turnover. I would buy more from second hand shops if they stocked more of the older ‘classics’ and fewer celebrity memoirs but then they can’t dictate what people donate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a fun one. I might have to steal it!

    I would like to use my local library more, but I just always have so many books here to read that I don’t really find the need.


  3. […] has been doing the rounds for a while it seems but I only came across it recently via Robert at Book Mongrel. And so here are my secrets […]


  4. […] came to this meme at Book Mongrel via Booker Talk, and it interested me because of the prevalence of ‘book buying bans’ […]


    1. I’ll check it out! Thanks.


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