Monday, October 2, 2017

[Let's Talk]: Borrow, Buy, or Bye

Borrow, Buy, or Bye

You know that stupid game you can play with celebrities called Fuck, Marry or Kill? It’s ridiculous and juvenile, but it’s a pretty good metaphor for how I approach the buying of romance books---only those categories are Borrow, Buy, or Bye. Why is this relevant? Because I did some Twitter ranting about an upcoming Berkeley title that’s priced at $12! TBQ suggested my acquisition strategy would be a good blog post and so here we go.

Alright, so I’ll start off by saying a few things about what I do for entertainment: uh, I read. In summer, I binge-read books the way other people binge-watch TV. In a year, I usually read 40 novels, 10 nonfiction books, and untold comics. On top of that, I’d guesstimate that I read 25 romances a month. So yeah. I real fast and I read a lot. But that kind of reading habit costs a lot of money, and here’s my strategy for paying for all of it.


I borrow eBooks whenever I can. I don’t actually go to the physical public library all that much, mostly using the online collections. As a general rule, once I find an author I like, I’ll check and see what the library has available and that will guide me. And, pro-tip, if your borrowed library book is due and you just can’t finish it in time, you can *ahem* put your device in Airplane mode until you’re done and the library thinks it’s retrieved the book, but you still have access to it. Not that I would ever do that. *ahem* Also, I am lucky enough to have access to 3 different libraries: the one in my city, the one at my workplace (they don’t have any romances, though), and the one where my Mom lives. Shh. That last part is a secret.


Alright, the truth is I buy a lot of books. Don’t judge.

  • Free or 99 cents: This price point is the quicksand of my Kindle collection and sort of a trap. It’s tempting to just buy anything that cheap, but the truth is, my TBR collection is filled with these bargain books, and I don’t know if or when I’ll ever read them. I try to be more judicious now, sticking with authors I know or books recommended by a friend. For example, in mid-September there were 100 Swerve titles that were marked down to 99 cents. I picked up 5 of them, but they were all 2nd or 3rd books in a series I had started but never completed. Sure, I’ll take a chance on something that just sounds good, but it’s likely to languish on my Kindle. #AskMeAboutMyTBRCollection
  • Under $4: I’m pretty lucky and don’t feel a lot of constraint in my book budget. I will one-click an author I know at this price range without even thinking about it. If it’s new-to-me author in this range, I’ll check the library first. If that doesn’t work, I’ll download the sample and read that before buying.
  • It’s in the over $4 range where things get interesting. I went back through my Kindle Orders---it was research! YOU GUYS, I MADE A SPREADSHEET. My friend Jess would be so proud. Either way, in the past 12 months, I bought 29 romances that were over $4. Of those 29 books:
    • There were 18 authors. Only 2 were new to me,  and they were recommended to me by friends I trust. 
    • 11 were in the $4-5 range, 12 were in the $5-6 range, 2 were in the $6-7 range and 4 were over $7.
      • Of those 29, I still haven’t read 4 of them! 


I don’t think I realized it until I did some analysis, but I have some pretty strict guidelines for how I’ll buy books.

  • First of all, for a romance eBook, $7.99 is my upper hard limit. And that price is basically a once or twice a year splurge. The only exception was that I spent $9.99 on the Beyond Series Glom Edition--but I remember actually doing the math and figuring out if it was worth it for me to spend that much money.
    • TBQ: Definitely worth it, it had it allllll. It's not available anymore, but you can find the series HERE!
  • I’ll buy anything under $3 without thinking of it, I’ll buy from an author I know and like under $5 without thinking of it, but I’m definitely spending time thinking about every book over $5. So realistically speaking, I will only spend more than $5 on trusted, beloved authors.
  • I noticed that half of the books I bought that were over $6 were from series I have now abandoned---and that’s because although I’ll buy a book that’s over $6, my brain starts calculate the total cost when it’s a long series. I started and abandoned both the Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole and the Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt. Each series is over 10 books, but it’s simply too much to spend that much on a series. If they don’t have those books at the library, then I’m likely done. 

ARCs and NetGalley

Yeah, you can get free books. But I try to only request books I know I will review. I have one book from NetGalley I just didn’t get to, and I feel so guilty about it. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about this, but I do. I use this option very judiciously.


There’s only one time I’ll buy a romance that’s more than $8, and that’s in paperbook at the local independent bookstore. I cannot even tell you how lucky I feel to live in a neighborhood with an excellent independent bookstore. I do everything I can to support them. Recently, they’ve started to carry romance, and I’m pretty excited about it. As a sign of my love and devotion, I try to buy a romance there every once in awhile. To be clear, though, this isn’t about me wanting to support the author, although that’s a nice bonus, it’s about me wanting to support the store. Now, let’s talk about The Ripped Bodice. I had the pleasure of visiting the store when I was in LA last year, and it’s honestly the most amazing place in the world. Before I walked in, I gave myself a stern talking-to to keep to my self-imposed $40 spending limit. But I’ve really struggled with how to support them long distance. Nothing really beats the satisfaction of the one-click, and it is less appealing to place an order and wait for it to arrive. My big idea is that I should order a book a month from The Ripped Bodice from either the Immortals After Dark or Maiden Lane series---in a weird way, I’d be happy to keep buying those books if it meant supporting the store. I know that makes like zero logical sense, but it feels like a plan that I can get behind and carry out. It would probably also prevent me from experiencing series burn-out, because I’d just be reading one a month. Those vampire-duke-shifter-earls sort of run together after a while.

Now that I’ve read this whole thing, I’m sort of wondering if anyone cares. But it’s interesting to think about how we keep ourselves in the books we love. And if anyone has amazing tips for how to convince yourself to clear out the TBR backlog, let me know immediately!

Oh, book buying and budgets. The struggle of readers everywhere!

I bought paperback only for years, without even thinking about the money (mainly because I was a young teen and my great-grandmother spoiled me by buying dozens of books a month -- and who could turn that down?!). But once I had to start, you know, paying for my own shit and also bought an ereader, I became much more careful about how I spent my book budget.

Note: I still have a lot of those aforementioned paperbacks, still unread, in my TBR mountain. But we shall not speak of that. The only print books I've bought in, shit . . . 4 years or more?, are used copies from my library's summer book sales ($0.20 a piece -- who can walk away from them?!).

I'd say a solid 98% of my Kindle collection is made up of freebies, ARCs, and $0.99-$1.99 books. The most I've spent on a non-sale book was $5.99. In a given year, I might buy one such book at the price, and it's ALWAYS a book from an author/series I love and cannot miss.

Yeah, I'm cheap as fuck. Having a tiny, almost nonexistent budget (book or otherwise...) will do that. But it's okay, really! I'm not lacking for books in the ol' TBR. Even if I didn't pay another penny on ebooks/used books, I'm definitely set! Add to that, I'm lucky to get quite a few ARCs every month. So I really can't complain. :)

I've only recently started making use of my library's Overdrive. It's not as awesome as some library systems, but the romance section isn't half bad. It may not have a lot of the books I've held off on buying, but I've found some other great ones in the collection anyway. And perhaps they'll start listening to my recommendations and buying a few series I'm waiting to finish (like the IAD).

I always feel bad when I read and love an ARC  . . . and then see the list price is $8, $10, $15. FOR A FUCKING EBOOK. That's ridiculous and I know that many readers can't drop that kind of money on ONE book (hi, it meeee), no matter how great the book is or how much I rave about it. Publishers really need to finally listen to the screams from readers and lower their ebooks prices. Authors and editors and whatnot need to be paid, I get that, but not at the expense -- LITERALLY -- of the very readers they depend on.

While we're on the topic of overpriced titles: novellas. No novella should be over $0.99 UNLESS it's a loooong novella, in which cause $1.99 might still be fair. But when I see books that are < 100 pages going for $2.99 OR MORE, I nope the fuck out. I will die on this hill: your quickie novellas should NOT be nearly the price of a full length, full price novel. STOP IT. Self pub, big pubs, doesn't matter, just stop this!

What are your hard limits on ebook pricing? What are your buying habits/budgets like? Do you have a spreadsheet like Jen? (Nothing wrong with that, I've been known to do them before! #readernerds) If you see that a book you want is ridiculously overpriced in ebook, do you wait and hope it goes down/your library gets it, or do you buy the print book instead, perhaps from a local store?


Until Next Time,

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