Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Random Thought - Four Dollars Worth of Books

This post is going to be a little bit of gloating, a little bit of an explanation, and a whole lot of love. What you see in the picture to the right is four dollars worth of books. Or at least, it is the number of books that the redhead and I recently purchased for four dollars at a library book sale.

I have written on this blog before about my love for library book sales, so it should come as no surprise that last Friday the redhead and I took a short trip to a nearby sale following up on an advertisement on the website Book Sale Finder. We knew we were going on a day when they were having a bag sale, so we brought a little cash and were prepared to spend an hour or two going through their selection and figuring out which books we already had and which ones we didn't (I have a tendency to buy books that I already own if I don't take a spreadsheet with me when I go book shopping). In my experience, one can expect to pay something on the order of five to ten dollars per bag of books, but when I walked up to the table the volunteers had set up, they were almost apologetic when they told me that they were charging one dollar per bag.

People sometimes ask me how one acquires a collection of thousands of books - the collection the redhead and I have amassed is just over eleven thousand books - and this sort of luck is a part of it. But it isn't really luck, because this sort of thing happens when one goes to book sales on a regular basis. Most of the time you show up, you buy reasonably cheap books, and you walk away having spent some reasonable amount of money for a reasonable number of books. Other times you get there and you just happen to be in the right place at the right time. I have had this happen before, when a library book sale had science fiction and fantasy paperbacks in flat fruit boxes and was selling them at a dollar a box. That time I bought everything they had and left with something like 1,200 books for around thirty-five dollars.

I wasn't quite so willing to buy out this library book sale's stock, and they didn't have that many books to begin with, but once I knew how little they cost, I became far less selective than I normally am. They had about seven flat fruit boxes of paperbacks and a smattering of hardcover. I ended up buying about half of their mass market paperbacks and a handful of their hardbacks and trade paperbacks. I am pretty certain that I unintentionally bought some duplicates of books I already have. I know that I bought duplicate copies of a few books I already owned, but in those cases the copy for sale was in better condition than the one I owned already. For example, I know I have a copy of John Varley's Ophiuchi Hotline, but my copy is beat all the hell and the cover is close to falling off. So I got a new copy that is in good condition. Similarly, my copies of Dune Messiah and Heretics of Dune are both pretty mangled. I got new copies of those as well. I bought one book twice at the sale, but that's the risk one runs in these situations. In the end, I wound up coming away from the sale with one-hundred and sixty-six books for my four dollars.

I figure that even if half of the books are unintentional duplicates (which seems reasonably likely), I'll end up coming out ahead. After all, the cost per book was in the two and a half cent range, so even if half are books I don't need that will only push the total up to something like five cents a book, and that seems like a pretty good deal to me. The most important thing about most of these books isn't that they were inexpensive. No, a lot of them are books that I probably would have bypassed on most days. Instead, I have a pile of books that I can now read and maybe find new storytellers and new stories that I might have missed otherwise. Some of the books are by authors who are unfamiliar to me, but are good enough at their craft that they have apparently managed to have several of their books published. Other books are parts of one or another extended multi-author series that I have never read. Others are books by authors that I know well, but I haven't read that particular title of theirs. And so on. The real point here is that there is a lot of new material for me to read in these boxes, and I am quite looking forward to it.

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