Buy a Book! by Debutante Jennifer

I have a confession to make: I am a cheapskate.  I shop in thrift stores.  Our family car has 210,000 miles.  When something breaks I fix it (or learn to live without it) rather than running out and buying a new one.  If there is something I need, it goes on a list and I try to wait a least a month before buying it, and usually, in that time I either discover I don’t really need it or find a cheaper alternative.   Part of this is the result of living on a limited income for a long time.  Part is just trying to live simply.  Having lived in a 500 square foot house (without plumbing, phone and electricity for a long time) I have learned that in all honesty, we don’t need nearly as much as we think we do. 

But we do need books, right?  Which brings me to my second confession: until quite recently, I almost never bought books.   I went to the library.  I borrowed books from friends.  It was rare that I could justify the expense of buying a brand new book and when I did break down, I usually, at some point, ended up feeling a little guilty.  Like that money could have been put to better use and I should have just waited and checked it out of the library. 

But then I had a revelation.  Here I am, about to have a novel published.  And in order for this to be a successful experience, I need people to actually go out and buy my book.  Lots of people.  And what right do I have to ask that people plunk down their hard earned fourteen bucks for my book when I’m checking everything out of the library? 

Yes, I am dead broke (remember the leaky roof and new retaining wall?  Know what it costs for heating oil and how much of the stuff we have to use here in Vermont?  And then there’s that car with the 210,000 miles – it’s leaking oil and brake fluid and probably has too much rust to pass inspection next year…) but that’s no excuse.  I now see that as writers, we have to support the system that supports us.  If we’re not going to buy books, who is? 

I have two favorite bookstores, both in Montpelier, the capitol of Vermont (smallest capitol city in the nation, and the only state capitol without a McDonald’s… how’s that for trivia?)  Bear Pond Books has been around for thirty plus years and has two floors, and an amazing staff.  Then there’s Rivendell Books, smaller and equally wonderful with a mix of new and used books.  Also, Rivendell is home to Veruca the turtle (actually a Russian Tortoise, I believe) which pretty much makes it my daughter’s favorite place on earth: “Go to turtle store now, Mommy?” 

Since my wonderful revelation, I have been going and buying books and I have not felt an ounce of remorse. 

So here’s my challenge to everyone out there this week: go to your favorite independent bookstore and spend some money.  Buy that book you’ve been hearing about.  The one your friend just recommended.  

And if you’re ever in Vermont, be sure to stop by both Bear Pond and Rivendell.  And don’t forget to say hi to Veruca. 

8 Replies to “Buy a Book! by Debutante Jennifer”

  1. I know just what you mean, Jennifer! I used to buy books, in fact, it was my main luxury. And then the great ironic twist: I quit work to write and then couldn’t afford it! The very thing that made me want to write. (Your hair! Your watch!)

    But it was also an interesting learning experience. For one thing, I realized, as a writer, that I needed to make my stories SO compelling that it would make people HAVE to buy that book. It also made me more selective about what I buy. I tend to buy a lot of debuts. That’s not self-serving BS, either, I really do. I seek them out and buy them, and I’ve found some great new authors that way.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post, and I’ll definitely get to those stores when in Vermont!

  2. My husband and I have always been second-hand bookstore junkies. Actually, our holidays mainly consisted of hopping from one great musty used bookshop to the next. Bu-ut, same as you, I now feel it’s wrong for me to buy that way. I still love the smell and feel of a used book store, but unless it’s a book from my childhood–one I cannot buy new–I now buy new and support other authors without guilt.

    I still love that libraries and second hand books bring reading into the hands of people who could not otherwise afford books, but for anyone who can remotely afford to, like you say, we need to support all the arts.

    And, Jennifer, your town sounds SO charming and idyllic. Even more so because of Veruca (and little Zella)!

  3. I cannot afford my book habits. I can go through several in a week if I have the time. I limit myself to one new book a month. I figure it would be easy to spend that on Starbucks or lunch so instead I bring my lunch and figure I am doing my part. Great post.

  4. Jennifer, as a retired accountant I can tell you that you are not a cheapskate. You’re fiscally conservative. Sounds more complimentary and isn’t such a slam. You always have to look at the bright side. When life rains, it helps make the flowers grow.

  5. Fiscally conservative — I like that!

    Also, I should have mentioned that while Montpelier itself has less than 9,000 people, it is home to five small, funky bookstores. There are the two I mentioned, an anarchist bookstore, a used paperback place that specializes in romances and mysteries and another small shop that specializes in gardening books but has an interesting mish-mash of other stuff as well. Who needs McDonalds with all those wonderful places to buy books?

  6. Being very much like Kristy, I seek out and purchase debut authors — thus explaining one of the reasons I love this grog and getting to know all of you. New writers and their fresh voices are, in fact, almost as exciting as their storylines…but the best part comes when I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the book and can “loan” it to a friend for their reading pleasure.

  7. I LOVE new books. Honestly, my favorite holiday present isn’t jewelry or shoes, but gift cards to some bookstore where I can spend hours agonizing on which books to take home. And my secondhand purchases have dwindled to almost nothing now that I’m making a living as a writer. I agree – if we want people to buy our books new, we need to extend the same courtesy to the authors we enjoy. I still love the library, though 🙂

  8. My book habit is the worst – I buy books, then get rid of them during one of my purge fests, then miss them and buy them again. Hmmm, and I wonder why we’re in debt (just kidding – not about the debt, but about books getting me there!). I hate lending my books out because I don’t like the idea that a book may not be returned. I am very territorial about my books. But I have curbed the habit so I’m much more practical and, being an equally big fan of the library, borrow what I can and buy what they don’t have and then, during my next purge fest, donate it. Well, not always, but usually. Like Kristy, I’ve been buying less since I’ve been writing more, which is ironic, but I read just as much, if not more. Let’s hope that writers can support themselves by writing, and continue to support one another by buying each other’s books and keep the flow going …

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