The danger of bookstores

Having a lot of unstructured time on my hands, I read quite a few books. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read books at this rate since I was in primary school. It’s such a pleasure to lose myself in a book on the bus or train to the point where I almost miss my stop. But as I read more books, an old problem has gotten worse: bookstores are now a dangerous place—for my wallet.

When I walk into a bookstore that has a selection I like, it’s as if I check my financial discipline at the door. It’s unusual for me to leave a good bookstore without buying at least one book. That’s been the case for a long time, but when I was busy with work or study I could tell myself not to buy (as many) books. I didn’t have time to read them anyway. Now that I have plenty of time to read books, my inner bibliophile has free reign.

Part of the problem is that I really like paper books. I like how light they are, I like that I can toss them around, and I like that I can drink coffee while reading a paperback without worrying about spilling any on the book—a paperback doesn’t have electronics that can break. It also looks good to have a collection of paper books on display in the living room.

Although I prefer paper books, I don’t dislike ebooks. Reading on an ereader can be convenient, particularly—I imagine—if you have a newer model with a big screen, a high pixel density, and backlighting, which I don’t. My ereader is fine, though. I doubt I’d prefer to read ebooks even if I had one of the latest devices, although I can’t say that for sure.

When I read, I use my visual memory. Sometimes I remember a certain passage that I want to re-read and I can usually recall which quadrant of the pages it was on. You don’t get that experience with ebooks and it’s one of the comforts that makes me prefer paper books. I suppose on an ereader I could bookmark such a passage, but how do you do that when you don’t know in advance which passage you’ll want to re-read?

I like hardcover books best of all. I tend to think they’re too expensive, but I’ll buy one occasionally. Fortunately, most library books are hardcovers, so when a book I want to read is available at my library, I win twice: it’s free and comfortable to hold while reading. To protect my wallet, the best thing I can do is to visit my local library and stay away from bookstores.

But the added value of good bookstores is their selection of books. The library may have many good books, but I’m more likely to hit upon an interesting book while browsing a bookstore. So while they remain a dangerous place for my wallet, I just can’t stay away from bookstores.

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Posted by Peter

Here, Peter writes about whatever has caught his interest recently. Maybe he'll narrow down this blog's scope someday.

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