12 July 2009

on the buying of books

I don't think I've ever bought a book for somebody else*. For that matter, I don't buy myself many books, and generally the only ones I buy I either:

So, cheap or rare children's books for Natalya aside, I don't buy many books. I read a lot of them, however, and what started me thinking about this was a brief aside in Nick Hornby's Shakespeare wrote for money wherein he mentions he recommends a good book to buy for new mothers (Beth Ann Fennelly's Tender hooks: poems). I read that (Hornby's book, not the poetry), and thought for a moment if there were any people I knew that I'd give a book as a gift, and then, thinking back, tried to think if I'd ever given one. Again, I can't think of ever buying a book for somebody I didn't already know liked or wanted that book.

What's wrong with me? Lots of people buy lots of books for people. I read a lot of books, and I know a lot of people who read books, and for some of them I can even reasonably gauge if a book I've read would interest them.

I don't mind recommending books, in fact, after I've enjoyed a book, I rather enjoy telling people about it, like, say, when I mentioned to skippy that Paul Melko's The walls of the universe is a fun read with good characters and a great story, even if the book leaves the possibility of a sequel open.

Come to think of it, I'm the same way with movies. I have no reservations pleading the case for an underrated, or overlooked hidden gem of a film, but I haven't found myself actually giving those movies to people. Perhaps I'm happy to merely point people in the right direction.

Maybe it's the fear of rejection. Merely giving somebody a pointer to something leaves the responsibility for actually obtaining that book or movie, and that transfers some of the negativity onto the person, and off of me, if it turns out to be less than enjoyable. After all, it's not like I'm the one who bought the book.

I do know that I have a weird neurosis about receiving gifts, particularly things such as movies, book, and video games that can be purchased many places. Even though it's somebody else buying it for me, I'm almost always certain it cost too much, that I could've found a much better price.

Maybe that gets to the heart of it, then. Perhaps it's just I'm too cheap to buy books and movies. The other purpose, other than to blather on and on without a point, for this very post is to test out a plugin I'm updating for Habari to insert Amazon Affiliate links for books and movies, so that I can make some small pittance of a commission if people decide to buy something. Or if they want more information.

Maybe they'd reserve it from their local library. To be honest, that's what I'd do.

*Two disclaimers on that:

  • "I don't think" because I've long known that collectively, the people I know remember more about myself that I ever will, so I've given up on making blanket "I've never ..." declarations.
  • As mentioned above, I've picked up many a book for other people, either because it was convenient for me to get for them, or because I knew they wanted that specific title. In that regard, it's no different from picking up groceries, the way I see it.

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