I’m an avid reader and have spent far, far, far too much money in the big box bookstores and used bookstores over the years. During the summer, I can easily read several books in a week, and if I’m doing research, I’ll run through five to six in a day. Buying all those books can lead to considerable expense!
Before I started paying off my credit cards, I tried to limit my book spending to $50 a month. In reality, I’d slip into a bookstore for a quick pick-me-up and charge $20 here and there. Anytime “Amy’s new thing” required books, I wouldn’t count it into my book allowance. Often, on my $50 shopping trip, I’d squeeze in something else and end up with $60 or $75.
These days, I look to our library first. At first, I just picked up what looked interesting on the new release shelves and decided I wouldn’t be able to read the really popular books while in debt-reduction mode. I’d stroll past a bookstore in the airport and linger over new titles as if they were forbidden fruit. I told myself, “it’s only temporary — you’ll be out of debt soon.”
Now, though, I’ve discovered our local library’s online consortium. Our library is one of 71 throughout the state that is linked together. So, if I look for a book through my local library’s online catalog, it’s linked up with the catalogs for all 71 library systems. I was thrilled to discover that when I place a hold at my local library, I’m in the queue for copies from all over the consortium. That way, even if I’m number 82, there are enough copies circulating that I’ll get it fairly quickly. I get an e-mail when a book is in, and all the books are shipped to our library. All I have to do is pick it up and return it to my local library.
So, now I’m using my library the same way I use Netflix. Two weeks ago, I skimmed the bestsellers on Amazon and read through the book reviews on NPR and the Washington Post. I put about a dozen books on hold through my library’s website, creating my own little book “queue.” I won’t necessarily get them in the order I want, but my odds of getting something good fairly quickly have increased considerably.
Sure enough, over the past two weeks, I’ve read the new Jennifer Weiner and Marion Keyes (two of my favorite ‘chic lit’ writers). I’ve read several NPR picks for summer reading and have Ethan Canin’s America America at home. I’m doing fun research on American cooking, so I have a facsimile of American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796). In my “queue,” I’m waiting for My Stroke of Insight by Jill Taylor Bolte, MFK Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf about cooking during World War II, and Jonathan Miles’s Dear American Airlines.
I love that I can keep my reading current for free! Plus, I’m able to track down all sorts of interesting things that the big box bookstores can’t carry. Our small-town library is clean, friendly, and very convenient. I can walk there on a nice summer afternoon or stop by on my way home from work. They even have a summer reading program for adults, which is so cute! It reminds me of how much I loved the library’s reading program as a kid. The website helps me keep track of what I have out, and I can renew things online. So far this summer, I haven’t paid a single fine.
So, if you’re an avid reader and trying to be more frugal, check into your library’s hold system. If it’s as efficient as ours, you can easily create your own Netflix for books!