walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

a sample size of one

I've been ruminating (yes, chewing my cud) the last few days about how I decide what books to buy and when. Most of the rules I've created over the years were filters overlaid on the base impulse: if I had an impulse to buy a book and the cover matter had certain characteristics, say, then those characteristics would either push me to buy now, or encourage me to do more research independent of cover matter, or stop me entirely from buying the book then or, perhaps, ever.

But this doesn't in any way answer a very large question of why I want to buy certain books, and why other books would only be interesting to me if I were trapped somewhere with no other reading material at all and I'd caught up on sleep, too, and exhausted any exercise opportunities, etc. That last is worth noticing -- I got on the treadmill yesterday rather than read _Transport Revolutions_. I don't regret buying it (I expected to have issues with it), and that last chapter was a revelation. But it's going to be almost impossible to force myself to read the whole book. I may well review just the last chapter, make a few comments based on the index and call it good.

I read a lot of non-fiction. That's intentional -- it's an effort to continue to understand the world around me, be a good citizen, etc. I also read a lot of fiction -- that's unavoidable. I loathe literary fiction and I'm not even going to get into why. I wind up reading something more or less in that category once a month (about) for book group and I almost always hate the results but love hanging out with the group. I like military sf with women characters if not as protagonist, then at least as prevalent in the secondary cast as men, preferably written by women, but I'm flexible on that. I like romance novels, but I'm picky and it's tough to describe or identify what I will like. I like some other science fiction and fantasy, but I mostly read urban fantasy these days, almost exclusively series. It's pretty clear that I like to find a "brand" and stick with it.

When I was poor, I bought my trashy genre fiction used in paperback, mostly at places like Magus Books in the U-District. When I had a little more money, I moved up to new in paperback, frequently from University Books in the U-District, and also used-hardcover from Half Price, a few blocks away. The rare pilgrimage to Powells (in Portland, OR) became a quarterly activity after I got divorced, and I started buying favorite authors (did I mention Elizabeth Moon?) new in hardcover. In 1995, I bought my first book from Amazon.com, after attempting to have Elliot Bay Books and University Books try to special order it for me (it was in print). I'm not convinced Elliot Bay really tried. I am convinced University Books tried; they were embarrassed. I went to work for Amazon a few months later.

I continue to buy some books new in hardcover, some books used, some books used paper. I buy in person. I buy at independents, at chains. I buy online. I buy through abebooks and bookfinder. My well-trained eyes still pick up signs for Friends of the Library book sales, even tho I gave them up long ago. I've put together spreadsheets to figure out what I buy and how much I pay for it.

I know a lot about my book buying. But I still don't know how I decide what to buy when. But I will say one thing. I checked in on the status of Jim Butcher's _Changes_, Charlaine Harris' _Dead in the Family_ and, eventually, Jack Campbell's _Victorious_ quite frequently over the last couple months (way, way, way more often than I blogged about it). I was never even strongly tempted to switch my country to buy it via the UK kindle store, much less to pirate the books or order them in paper. I knew I was going to buy and read these books eventually. On the kindle. Even if it took a year for them to get there, because I've waited a year for books to come out in paper for a large chunk of my life and longer for it to show up used in paper. I wonder if I still would have been checking a year from now.

I wonder how much I really care about what happened to Black Jack, or Harry Dresden, or Sookie Stackhouse. I wonder how much anyone really cares about what happened to Jack, Harry or Sookie. Supply and demand are funny things, and I am fickle.
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