10 Reasons We Buy Books When We Could Read Them For Free

As an author myself, I wish I knew what makes other people choose a book. As you peruse the shelves in a bookstore, or click through the Books tab on Amazon, there are hundreds, thousands, millions of titles even, to choose from. What makes you whittle down the choices and select one from the milieu, plunk down several dollars from your hard earned money and spend several hours of your life on an experience which you have no way of being assured will be worth the sacrifice. It’s not like a TV sitcom that’s over in 30 minutes, less commercial time that you can use to get snacks. Books require a commitment of time and mental space to form images and just about everything else. So what makes us buy books?

Added to everything I’ve said before, is the knowledge that reading is free. If you live anywhere close to a public library, you can sign up for a card and have access to all the free books you could ever read in your lifetime, and more. There are websites where you can acquire thousands of free titles to read to your hearts content. The list of free classics that you can get on Amazon is astounding and since you don’t even have to buy a Kindle, you can just download the Kindle app, also for free, it’s a wonder, kind of, that people still gloss over those options and buy print books these days. Yet, we do. Thankfully, since, again, I’m an author who depends on people to buy my books.

Even more so, many bookstores, Barnes & Noble included, welcome readers to come in, buy a warm beverage and read their books for several hours without purchasing anything. So why then, do we roam bookstores and take books home with us?

I wish I knew why other people did it but in thinking about my own reasons, I’ve surmised that the events of the past are probably the best indicators of our tendencies and thus of what we will do in the future. What are some of the reasons I’ve bought books in the past few months? On reviewing my recent purchases, I can say that I bought those titles because:

10. I went to a thrift store and saw a book with a pretty cover that I was willing to take a gamble on that it was an interesting story and was able to convince myself that even if the story was terrible, it would look nice in my bookshelf. Recent purchases that fit this category: Little Bee /Chris Cleave

9. The book was written by an self-published author who is a friend or just someone who I want to support and encourage. (When I buy indie books, I honestly don’t care whether the books are good or not because I am investing in the author this time, not my own reading experience, so I am always pleasantly surprised when I find self published books that I enjoy immensely)

8. The book is one that I own and have already read but I want to give a copy to someone else. Recent purchases that fit this category: The Four Agreements /Don Miguel Ruiz

7. It is the latest release by an author whose other work I have already read and thoroughly enjoyed. Recent purchases that fit this category: What The Dog Saw /Malcolm Gladwell

6. It is a non-fiction book written by someone I consider an expert in their field and I am interested in what they have to share. Recent purchases that fit this category:  Linchpin /Seth Godin; Money /Tony Robbins

5. The book is on sale in the bookstore and I recognize the title as one that has been highly praised by someone with a similar reading taste as mine. I follow a lot of book bloggers and Booktubers but they don’t all enjoy the same books as I do or have the same issues in reading that I do so I am rather selective about some of these recommendations. However, there are a few people who, when they say they gave a book a 5 star rating, I will make a mental note to look out for that title when next I am in a bookstore with a few extra dollars to spend. Recent purchases that fit this category: The Bees /Laline Paull

4. It is a book I have wanted to read for a long time and I find a beautiful copy, at a good price and I need to motivate myself to finally read it. Recent purchases that fit this category: The Book Thief /Markus Zusak – Note: This plan works. I’d been putting off reading The Book Thief for a couple years and now, just 2 months after owning the hardcover, I’ve already read it

3. The book was nominated for a prestigious award. I have a challenge to read nominees for the Man Booker Prize and winners of the Pulitzer so I am always on the lookout for interesting titles from these lists. Recent purchases that fit this category: The Luminaries /Elizabeth Catton and We Need New Names /NoViolet Bulawayo (2013 Booker nominees), A Brief History of Seven Killings /Marlon James (Booker award, 2015)

2. The author is Jamaican – I am all about supporting authors from my homeland. Recent purchases that fit this category: The Sun Is Also A Star /Nicola Yoon; A Brief History of Seven Killings /Marlon James

1. I have previously read the book from the library and loved it so much I want to own it. Most of my recent purchases fit this category, most recently The Vegetarian /Han Kang; The Husband’s Secret /Liane Moriarty

What about you? What are the reasons you choose a book at the bookstore?

The author in me especially, wants to use your answers for research as I work on getting my next book published.

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. tarnishedsoul says:

    I kind of like being able to gluo pages and read a book in my hands. The types of books I read are varied, however.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This made me wonder, Run and then realise, there is no one answer. I buy many books online but a bookstore for me is like a honey pot for a bear. Two weeks ago I walked into a bookshop at random and walked out ten minutes later with two books by Sebastian Barry and Joe Joyce.


  3. Darkowaa says:

    The bookcover art, the author – I’m more inclined to purchase and support black authors – where black = of African descent; African, Caribbean and African American, the blurb would also make me curious to get a book too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You know, when I was writing my TTT post, I wasn’t thinking about what makes me BUY a book, just what makes me want to READ a book. When it comes to buying, I look first for great deals. Then books I end up buying for full price are new books by authors I love that I can’t get for free from the author/publisher. These are usually books that have a long waiting list at the library, too.

    Happy TTT (on a Wednesday)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Run Wright says:

      Thanks for the TTT Wednesday wish. Same to you 🙂
      Yeah, I read a lot of different types of books but when I saw the title, this is the list that just came to mind and I ran with it. I even made a video about it for my YouTube channel that will be posted a little later today.
      Do you get a lot of free books to review? What sites do you use?


  5. You just never know what you could find at a thrift store! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. yaykisspurr says:

    I love the way you wrote this post! I feel like I got to know you… my nephew is Jamacian and we read together almost everyday and I’m always on the lookout for picture books with characters he will light up at when he sees (little brown boys). Also the fact you support your friends who are indie authors is cool! I honestly read a ton of my books from the library and digitally… lol… but all your answers apply as to why we keep buying books, so well stated!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Run Wright says:

      Thanks so much for reading. Kudos to you for reading with your nephew. It’s so important to teach children to love reading. I read a lot from the library too but I won’t stop buying books either.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. weeklymeg says:

    This is a lovely post and very interesting to think about our book buying habits. I must admit I’m terrible for judging a book by its cover- I’m drawn to pretty patterns and fonts and foiling and it makes me more inclined to read it. I also trust word of mouth and things that are trending on Goodreads- great post! X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Run Wright says:

      Thanks for reading, Meg. I love a pretty cover too although there are so many beautifully designed books that have disappointed me on reading them. They do look good on the shelf though. Alternatively, they make great gifts for someone else who might appreciate them more.

      Liked by 1 person

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