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The Cheapskate vs. the $20 Paperback

August 22, 2018

(image via wikimedia)

I went to the bookstore a couple days ago to buy a cheap paperback.

This should have been easy.  I had a little over $10 left on a book store gift card, and I didn’t want to use my own money.  I had already purchased the book I really wanted with this same gift card a few weeks ago, so this was like a bonus book.  You can use your own money to pay for part of a bonus book, but you try not to.

Unfortunately, all the books in paperback that I really wanted to read were $15.99 or $16.99 0r $17.99.  One was even $22.99.  To me, spending $20 on a paperback is ridiculous, even with a gift card.  True, I can get a 20% or 25% discount at some bookstores because I’m a member, but I’d rather get a discount on a $9.99 paperback than a $17.99 paperback.

“You can afford the $20,” my daughter said.

“We can afford $20 because I don’t spend $20 for paperbacks,” I said.

If I wanted to spend $20 for a paperback, I might as well fork over the extra $10 or less to buy the hardcover.  Hardcovers last longer and can take more abuse.  A couple decades ago when one of my dogs tore through part of my book collection, only hardcovers (and a Bible) survived the onslaught.  To be fair, my dog tore up one hardcover, The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien, but I always regretted buying my own copy of that book anyway.

When I was a kid (here we go), comic books were 20 cents and paperbacks were 99 cents.  I have proof.  I’ve kept a bunch of them (my dog didn’t destroy everything).  Yes, they were cheap and disposable, but that’s what paperbacks (and comics) are supposed to be.  Paperbacks aren’t meant to last for generations.  They’re meant to be read a few times and then thrown out or recycled.  Yes, I know a lot of people (like me) keep paperbacks, but they’re not designed for that.  People like me are supposed to be the exception.  We buy the cheap stuff and then keep the cheap stuff.

My quest didn’t get any easier when I passed the James Patterson wing of the book store.  Technically, James Patterson books are in the fiction section, but now he has three sets of shelves filled up with his books.  Just a couple months ago, he had only two shelves.  In case you don’t know, I think most James Patterson books are unreadable.  Whenever I feel depressed (it doesn’t happen much), I read a few pages of a random James Patterson book and think, “At least I didn’t write this.”

Anyway, the three James Patterson shelves were filled with cheap paperbacks.  Aaaargh!  The writer I despise the most puts out a product in the format that I want.  Oh, the cruel irony!  I mean, I know people will pay top dollar for a James Patterson novel.  Most of his books don’t go directly to paperback.  His novels are hardcover bestsellers when they’re released, so somebody is paying way too much money.  If he priced his paperbacks at $17.99, schmucks would still buy them.  But he doesn’t do that with a lot of his books.

I really wished I liked James Patterson novels.

That’s never going to happen, so I’m stuck reading books that are overpriced.

Literary authors might complain that they’re not making a lot of money, certainly not as much as a bestselling author like James Patterson.  There were several literary novels I almost bought, but the paperback prices were too high.  Maybe if publishing companies put out more $9.99 copies of literary stuff, more people (like me) would buy it.  Then again, maybe cheapskates like me don’t read literary stuff no matter how cheap it is, so the publishing companies overprice literary fiction for the chumps who will pay for it no matter what.  This is what I get for not being a publishing insider; there are a lot of things I don’t know.

When I really want cheap paperbacks, I go to used book stores.  If anything, there are too many cheap paperbacks at the used book store.  My brain can’t absorb all the possibilities.  In my younger days, I would walk out of the used book store with too many books because even if I didn’t read all of them, I hadn’t paid enough to be angry about it.  If I buy a new paperback now, it’s a commitment, even when it’s $9.99.

Nobody gives gift cards to the used book store, though.  I’m pretty sure they exist.  I wonder if gift givers feel cheap giving a used book store gift card.  It’s not like the gift card itself is used.  If it’s a new gift card for a used book store, that’s okay.  It’s the used gift cards that people usually don’t appreciate.

Just so you know, the story has a happy ending.  My daughter found a hardcover, and I paid for some of it with the gift card.  That’s allowed.

Thank you, gift giver, for the gift card!

10 Comments
  1. I just paid $15 for a paperback copy of Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye”… money well spent, far as I’m concerned!

    • If you’d rather have the book than the $15, sure, it’s money well spent.

      You probably could have found it for a lower price though. Then again, I’m a cheapskate.

  2. This really resonated with me. I was just on Goodreads making a comment about the price of a 722 page paperback with tiny font that I paid 11.00 for in 2005 …something to the effect that even if it had typos and repetition and poor editing…I was still getting more than my money’s worth if I read it to the end and found it okay. I have been bitching about Kindle books for the last few years. When I first got my Kindle I used it to buy cozy mysteries (I had just begun reading in that genre right when I bought the Kindle). The prices were reasonable to me at the time for the writers I began reading and collecting. Then something happened..the prices got higher and I was not happy…these were books that I could not sell to a second hand book store, could not give away, could not even load out and when I drop in the traces and my Amazon account/email dies with me…all those hundreds of books will be lost…someone makes money off that loss…

    Then a couple of my favourite cozy authors started being published first as hardcovers…a step up for them and a year plus wait for me for the paperback to come out or the Kindle price to come down. I will never pay 18.00 for a Kindle book. Sometimes the damned Kindle price is higher than the hardcover. As my home is overrun with books, mostly paperbacks, I wanted to start buying more Kindle books. I only buy hardcovers from Abebooks (second hand) if I cannot get what I want at all in paperback. I love second hand book stores but I am running out of room. I have had to learn to be patient now that I refuse to pay the prices asked on things I think are not worth the money being asked. In Canada we pay HST on books which is outrageous. If you order a book online you are paying price, tax, postage ….you really have to want it badly. At my age, I do not want anything that badly. I have no wheels so I do not visit regular bookstores anymore….I have never in my life been able to go into one and come out with one or two books. Buying online…I can buy books one at a time. I know authors have to make money but really I know they don’t make that much and Kindle books that do not require paper and shipping and handling and storage….should not cost as much as a paperback ever. Amazon has put a lot of bookstores out of business and with a monopoly you get price gouging. I am fortunate in my home library and that I love to reread …I am currently rereading for the 8th time a series of novels that run to 26 books…I am on book 12. When I finish book 25 I will have to buy book 26 but the price of the pocket novel should be down by then. I will then start another series I own of 20 novels. You gotta love a personal library and the ability to reread.

    • Rereading definitely makes some books worth the money. Wait a minute, did you say 8 times? 8 times?

      Yeah, I’d spend $20 on a book I read 8 times, even if I am a cheapskate.

  3. I just did this yesterday. I bought a $20 softcover instead of a $44 hardback (different books).

    My local boom chain actually had a Paterson-specific sale going on trying to push more Patterson on their patrons!

  4. You make me laugh about being a writer…in a world where being a writer just makes me want to cry!

  5. I would prefer a gift card from a used bookstore. More bang for the buck.

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