Discussion: What Makes You Decide to Buy a Book?

Like many readers, I’m an avid collector of books…so much so that I asked y’all for advice when it was time to cull my collection. But sadly, neither the space in my apartment nor the money in my wallet are infinite, and I can’t buy all the books I’m interested in reading. So how do I decide whether to buy a book?

The first thing I always consider is who the author is and/or what they’re writing about. Certain authors and topics will always get my financial support, which means that I’ll do my best to purchase those books as soon as they’re released. Where possible, I always buy physical copies of books by my favourite authors (Seanan McGuire, Kelley Armstrong, Zen Cho, etc.) and books about topics that are important to me (queer SF/F, feminist historical fantasy, and Indigenous Canadian literature) because I want to “vote with my dollar” and generally I can afford to do it.

Another thing to consider is availability of the book I’m interested in. Can I get a copy through the library, or is it unlikely to be purchased? If it’s a hit novel, am I willing to wait weeks or potentially months before a copy becomes available? I’m a pretty patient reader most of the time, and I do have an extensive physical TBR list to wade through, so usually I can wait. But sometimes I’m so excited about an upcoming release that waiting absolutely isn’t an option so I’ll pre-order it…although admittedly I don’t do that often because mail delivery is excruciating where I live and shipping is expensive.

The other thing I usually consider is the price of a the book, whether it’s in print or as an ebook, which will often influence whether I buy a copy for my Kindle library or my print library. With romance novels, I almost always buy the ebook because they’re less expensive, but certain fantasy novels are actually pricier in a digital format than they are in print. And of course, there’s the all-important collection to consider: if I’ve already got the first three books in a series sitting on my shelves, I’m not going to buy the fourth book as an ebook! While I love matching cover art as much as the next person, I’m much more motivated by having consistent bindings (i.e. all hardcovers or all mass market paperbacks for a series) than I am by holding out for matching covers.

So what I want to know is this: how do you decide whether to buy a book, and in what format? Are you more likely to buy a book by a favourite author, or do you prefer to spend your money on books with beautiful cover art and bindings? What do you think of my book buying process?

Let me know your thoughts on buying books and your own book buying habits in the comments below!

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  • I usually read a pretty narrow set of genres, so that’s typically my first check. After that, it’s all about those Amazon and Goodreads ratings 😂

    • That’s true, I know how much you rely on the library for all your manga needs! GR ratings can influence my decisions sometimes, but usually it’s the content of reviews vs. star ratings that actually influence my decisions…there are just too many people who give out 1 and 5 star ratings freely for me to go by that alone!

  • Now, this is a hard one for me because I am the version of the shopaholic who is broke, in debt and crying because I can’t afford things like food. I mean, that’s only a slight exaggeration, but I have spending problems when it comes to books (and just things in general).

    I am with you on having books in the same format, with the same style covers (which is why redesigns make me cry, like Sabaa Tahir’s Ember in the Ashes books have been redesigned so now I’ll have to rebuy when the next book is out) and I do like all hardback or all paperback. Continuity is important for my shelf but also for me. I am also not a patient reader. I want a book immediately, I am Veruca Salt, I Want I Now! That’s not to say I’ll read it immediately, but I want it in my hands as fast as humanly possible. Luckily delivery times for me are really good, I have never loved Amazon Prime so much as the day I discovered I live in a same day delivery area.

    I am getting better at denying myself books, though. I try to be patient waiting for ebook deals (and then they all come at once). I am also good about buying second hand when I can. I don’t mind my books being scuffed because I feel it shows they are loved. I try and keep my romance to ebooks both because of the cringey covers but they’re also cheaper. And I am getting better about using my library for books (except when they are being slow and frustrating the hell out of me, also when they’re being stingy with their dollar and not getting books in I want).

    Basically, I buy too many books and I end up putting off buying things I probably need like new shoes for work. I have just got a book money jar in a subscription box (I only have one book subscription box and it’s quarterly so I feel it’s justified) and I am using that jar to save £1 coins and I’m allowed to buy myself shiny expensive books I’ve been wanting for a while with that money (or that’s the plan anyway) because that way at least I’ll feel like I’ve earned buying that fancy hardback that costs way more than it probably should.

    • I live vicariously through you and your book buying habits, I hope you know that! Hahaha. Your Sunday Summary posts are the best because I get a sneak peek at what you’ve been buying. Honestly, I saved up and lived SUPER frugally for a long time so now I’m a bit willy-nilly when it comes to buying things like books and clothes too…but thankfully we can still afford to eat (most of the time)!

      The cover redesign thing actually doesn’t bother me that much, but mismatched formats drives me insane. Matching covers used to be really important to me, but after the snaffu that was the Curse Workers series by Holly Black (each new book in the series got a new cover) I kinda gave up on caring about that, LOL. I’m definitely Veruca Salt-ish too when it comes to certain books, like with Rituals. Grrrr I’m so jealous! My problem is that the postal delivery person who works in my area just doesn’t knock on our door…they assume no one’s home and then leave stuff at the post office on the other side of town. #killme

      Oooh yes good point, I do love buying second hand too! I don’t mind scuffed books either, especially if they’re mass market paperbacks (which most of my second hand books are) because let’s be real: they’re just going to get scuffed when you read them anyway. Ebooks are key for romance! My favourite is when Smart Bitches Trashy Books sends out a newsletter about tons of great freebies or .99 reads, and then I go hog wild and buy a ton. Hooray for library use! I hear you with the wait times though, they can be brutal.

      A book money jar! That’s adorable and brilliant. Maybe I should make my own — jazz up an empty peanut butter jar with some tape that says “book money” on it — so I can save up too. As much as I adore beautiful hardcovers, you’re so right: they really are much more expensive than they should be!

      • I’m glad I could provide for you then. I’ve been very good lately and I am impressed with myself. Bookish self control is not a thing I usually exhibit. I get what you mean, though. I was so poor when I was a student so as soon as I got a full time job I got a little crazy. I’ve not gotten over that spending thing yet.

        I do hate when books are different heights on my shelves. It makes it so hard to have a series all stacked next to each other. And I have delivery folks who think like that but our neighbour is known for being in and so all parcels end up going to next door. Sometimes they don’t even leave a card telling us. It’s convenient but I feel bad for my neighbours.

        I love my book money jar. I have enough to get a hardback I’ve had my eye on already. I may just have to treat myself before my holiday. Mine is essentially a jar with writing on it so a peanut butter one would work just as well. It’s one of the most useful things I’ve had in a while.

  • There is only one author I would buy in hardback, and only one series. For all the rest I will wait

  • Lynn Williams

    More and more often I buy the kindle version of books. I love books, I really do – but electronic books are so easy to carry around with you – and you always have a spare on hand. If I am buying physical books though I have to be completest – same covers and size.
    Lynn 😀

    • I’ve been finding myself doing the same! The last couple years I’ve moved around a lot, and as pretty as they are, physical books are such a pain to move. Ebooks are great for things like that, and for going on trips as you said. Same size is key!

  • I actually don’t buy a lot of books because I just don’t have the money to spend on them. But I definitely consider things like availability, how badly I want the book, and the price. If I’m not able to get a book as a review copy or from the library or borrowed or in some way for free, whether I buy it or not depends on the price and how badly I want it. Some books just won’t make that cut if I have to pay for them. If I read a book and really love it, there’s a chance I’ll buy a physical copy even if I don’t plan to reread it. For the past few years, I haven’t been buying physical books unless I had already read the ebook, but lately I have been splurging a bit on books because some of them are even lower in price than their ebook counterparts, and the library doesn’t have them, and they’re books I really have been wanting, plus they have pretty covers. But honestly I have a lot of mismatching and incomplete series, but I kind of just let it slide because it’s not worth the money to fix/complete them all when most of them are series I’m not going to reread or don’t love as much as I used to.

    • I hear you there Kristen, this is the first time in my life I really have the money to be able to buy non-essential things like books. Even so, I usually sniff around to see if the book’s available via a library, on an e-ARC platform, or sometimes I’ll even email a publicist to see if they’d be interested in sending something my way for review (although admittedly I don’t do the last one often). Oh yeah, it’s crazy how pricey some ebooks are! The pricing models for some of them boggles my mind…I saw an ebook the other day for almost $20 while the print version is only available in a $10 mass market paperback. SO bizarre.

      Oooh good point! I do have a number of incomplete book series on my shelves (mostly UF) that I’ll probably never complete because I’m either no longer interested in reading the series or it’s become too long to justify buying all of them.

      • I don’t have the guts to email publicists because my blog is just not big enough, and I feel like usually they only give ARCs out way in advance, and I never how to find out about those? Lol. But on ocassion I’ll email a smaller indie press to ask about just an ecopy or something, but I haven’t done that much either.

  • I am all about not buying a book I can get at the library. I mostly am allowing myself to buy books from series I have already started, when they are on sale (lots of rules, right?). I get a twitchy finger when there are good sales, and I watch books on my wish list, like people watch the stock market. If the book reaches the magic price — buy, buy, buy!

    • Me too, Sam! It’s kind of my creed as a librarian, haha. Unless it’s a book by an author whose work I’ve been collecting for a while, that is. Sale books are the best! I get those email notifications when a book’s price drops and they’re so helpful…but kinda dangerous too. LOL a book broker! That’s awesome.

  • I pick up a lot of books because they look and sound interesting, but recommendations are also HUGE. I would say the opinions of reviewers/friends/bloggers I trust (or whose tastes align with mine) make the most impact on what I decide to buy and read.

    • Oh yeah, recommendations play a big role for me too! A few bloggers have given me dozens of recs and never led me astray, which is awesome. They definitely factor into what I read for sure, although sometimes I choose to go the library route rather than buying them.

  • Greg Hill

    I buy most of my books and it’s usually Kindle versions, not only because cheaper but because I’m reading so much more on my Kindle now. But yeah I do have a few auto- buy authors (or at least auto- take a hard look, because even favorites let us down sometimes), but I have to admit for me it’s usually- do I want the book that bad? And it’s usually the premise or the sampler at Amazon that often makes up my mind. Like the Collapsing Empire, which I just read- reading the prologue at Amazon sold me on that one. Recommendations are big too, like Mogsy says.

    And… I’m not good at waiting lol. And some books I just need to have for my collection. 🙂

    • It’s funny, I used to be so adamantly against ebooks — not because they’re digital, but because you can’t see their prettiness on your shelves. These days though, my budget matters a lot more than the way my shelves look, LOL. Kindle books are so dang cheap, and the iPad app is great.

      Ooooh good point about sampler chapters! They can seal the deal or break it for me too. The wait is so brutal sometimes! I’ll admit that I’ve broken down and bought copies of books that I was already queued up for at the library. Sigh…bad librarian!

  • I follow most of what you described.

    Print novels are a must when they are by favourite authors, plus if I have a very good feeling about a the book and think that it could become a favourite. Years ago I loved hardcovers, however nowadays I actually prefer paperbacks. Most hardcovers aren’t anything special underneath the dust jacket, so I’m not willing to pay more for them.

    Since getting my iPad a few weeks ago I have been reading more ebooks (when available I buy them through the iBookstore), mostly from the library and also books I’m interested in but not completely sure about.

    For me a mix of print books and ebooks works best, I’m personally not the kind of reader who would be happy with only reading ebooks. I love the feel and smell of print books way too much to limit myself in such a way.

    • I used to be all about hardcovers too! I’m not really sure why…maybe because they hold up better after a couple reads? But I’m with you Sabrina: these days I’m fine with a paperback copy, since they’re cheaper (and fit in my purse, lol). There are a few really beautiful hardcovers out there, like those colourful leather bound classics, that I might still spring for though.

      My iPad has been a huge factor, too! Ebooks are much more convenient for travel, and I find that reading graphic novels or comic books are great on there too, because you can zoom in on the images. I don’t think I’d be happy with only ebooks either, but I have to say that I’ve been seriously surprised by how much I’ve been reading them!

  • I don’t buy as many books as I used to, but I used to buy anything that sounded good, even if I knew I wouldn’t have time to read it. (I know, crazy.) One thing I NEVER buy are ebooks. For some reason I just can’t bring myself to part with money for something that isn’t “physical.”

    • Oh my gosh, me too! Sometimes I look back on books I bought a few years ago and just shake my head wondering what I was thinking…dang impulse buys. I used to be the same way about ebooks, but since I’ve been travelling more — and moving around a lot for school and work — I’ve embraced them because they’re so convenient!

  • I’m too broke to buy everything that I want to. I’m lucky enough that I’m either able to obtain e-arcs of books I want to read, or have access to a library close to where I live. When I do buy physical books though, I definitely wait for the price to go down, or buy it from book outlet. I’m a little less restrictive with ebooks because those tend to be relatively cheaper, especially those romance ones.

    • Amen to that, haha. I definitely feel lucky to have access to so many great libraries (through work and subscription cards), because I know in many parts of the world it’s tough to get genre fiction from the library, especially in English. Book Outlet is the best/worst thing I ever discovered! As long as I can wait, I find that most of the books I want to read are available there at some point anyway. 🙂

  • Karen

    My book buying habits have changed A LOT over the years. I used to snap up everything and was big on collecting books. Now I only do that for favorite authors/books.

    I’m pretty picky now and need a lot of recommendations to splurge on a HC.

    I’m mostly buying e-books right now but those are almost all romances. For some reason I tend to like physical books for YA or anything long or deeper like fantasy (not that I read a lot of fantasy but you get my meaning lol)

    My greatest weakness is Kindle deals that I see on twitter. I’m like ooh! .99!! One-click. Then my CC statement comes and it’s 3 pages of .99 lol

    For What It’s Worth

    • It seems like a lot of bloggers were like that when they first got started (me too), but don’t really do that much book buying or care as much about collecting as they go on. Now I’m like you, I usually only buy favourite authors or copies of books I’ve already read and plan to re-read. Recommendations are big too!

      YES those Kindle deals are absolutely deadly! Those .99 books really stack up over time, haha. I’ve started trying to limit myself to one per week, but sometimes the deals are just too good for me to resist.

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    Not taking into consideration favorite authors or series, since that’s a given, I’d say that I feel compelled to buy a book when the story calls out to me, when what I’ve come to call my “book vibes” can be felt more strongly – and they are very, very rarely wrong, both for good or bad.
    The fact that I’ve turned almost completely digital helps a great deal, because 90 percent of the times I save a lot compared to physical books (not to mention the saved shelf space! and no dust to remove, which is another plus 😀 ), and more often than not, if I wait a little while before buying an e-book, my usual e-bookstore offers discounted prices after some time, which is all good unless I’m too eager to read a certain title. And let’s face it, beloved books are more an investment than an expense… 😉

    • Yes, the book vibes! From what I’ve heard you say about them, they rarely lead you astray. 🙂 Stories that call out to me are usually ones that I try to buy too, although the format that I go for depends a lot on the story (I usually like to have print copies of stories that feel really important to me). You’re right about the expense though: most of the time, building a digital book collection is way more affordable than building a print one. Too right about investing in a beloved book, especially if it’s one you know you’ll re-read — or even pass on to someone else one day! 🙂

  • If it’s my favourite author, then yes totally, I’ll buy a book but I’m not fussed if it’s paperback or hardback or bindings or any of that. It’s just whether I wanted to read it or not. Mostly these days I go for ebooks because of storage space and practicality sakes. I’m very boring that way!

    • Hey, nothing wrong with being practical! I should probably try that sometime, haha. Ebooks are a total blessing for storage space (and for travel), but I’ll always try to get a print version of books by my favourite authors. There’s just something about seeing their work on my shelves that makes me smile!

  • I’m weird and almost never buy books, haha. If I have a gift card, when I finally convince myself to spend it, I usually buy either a book I’ve already read and love or a sequel in a favorite series. I’m very leery of books I haven’t read yet, haha. I also find buying ebooks a waste in most cases, as I can get almost everything I want from the elibrary!

    • I remember that about you, haha! To be fair, kinda difficult to lug a bunch of books from the US to Germany, right? 😉 Buying books you’ve already read is the best! I do it mostly with standalones or debut authors that pleasantly surprised me. I do love the digital collection at my library but admittedly sometimes I’m just too impatient to wait out the holds queue!

      • Yeah, way outside my budget, haha.

        I get impatient, too! I try to request books that I know I want, but sometimes I end up on the hold list for months.

  • I’m one of the rare bloggers who I think doesn’t buy books anymore. I used to, lots. Like 2-3 books a week but this was years ago when hardcovers were under $10 on Amazon. I just have waaaay too many books and ebooks to justify buying books now. So I try to get an ARC, an audiobook or library copy and if I can’t get any of those, I really think about buying the book. If I plan on reading the book RIGHT AWAY, then I will get it, but if I’m not then I hold off.

    • That’s a good way to go about it — there are a lot of times when I buy a book and don’t actually end up reading it until months, sometimes even years, later! I’ve definitely leveled off a bit with my book buying in terms of volume, and I’m much more deliberate about it now. I should probably try to be more disciplined with book buying given how many unread books are on my shelf, but I can’t help myself!

  • The summary / blurb of a book and the reviews it’s gotten (especially from trusted bloggers) are what make me want to buy a book. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous post! <3

    • Trusted blogger reviews are the best for deciding to buy a book! Admittedly I’m a bit leery of blurbs these days since they seem to be more misleading than ever, but they do intrigue me for sure. Aww thanks Zoe! 🙂

  • I think I’m pretty similar to you though I have to admit I don’t “vote with my dollar” as often a I should. The closest I’ve gotten to this is buying books for a series or author that is not getting as much attention as I think they should though often this is partially selfish because I want to keep the writer writing/series going so that I can consume them:). Anyway, need to be more strategic and do better.

    The only thing I would add is what I call the “bookstore frenzy buy” I don’t get to bookstores very often so when I do I almost always buy something – whatever looks good from browsing – and usually more than I need to or should.

    • HA! I do the same thing, and I often suggest those author’s books for purchase at libraries I have memberships at (I’ve got a couple) or order a copy for the library I work at if I feel like it’s a good fit for the collection. Nothing more depressing than a beloved series ending partway through because of low sales!

      Oh my gosh, yes…the bookstore frenzy. How could I have left that out?! You’re so right, there’s something about a well-stocked bookstore that makes me feel like I need to buy something even if I don’t *actually* need to buy something, haha.

  • I think a lot before buying a book. Most book I’m interested in are imported to India so they cost quite a bit. Sometimes I worry about spending on a book as I don’t know if I’ll end up liking it or not. I am like you with books that are important. I like to buy diverse books and books from Indie authors so I can give them some support! I buy most of my books during local book fairs! It is much easier on my bank balance 😛 Great discussion Danya!

  • Being older now means that I’ve got more purchasing power than I used to have. But that being said it doesn’t mean that I go out and buy ALL THE BOOKs – there’s still a system. 🙂

    I normally don’t buy physical books being on the move a lot so space isn’t so much of an issue for me – although I’m starting to replace my physical collection now.

    My favourite authors are definitely autobuys for me – I even pre-order when I can but for some reason I’m not often able to do this on Kobo.

    Availability is also another thing I’ll consider too – will I probably be able to get it from my library later? Then maybe I’m willing to wait.

    Then there’s the price on different platforms. Like recently I checked out Wonder Woman and on Kobo it’s $18 and Kindle it’s $12. That’s a rather large difference… And I own a Kobo. Not to mention the book depository was not even $12 for a PHYSICAL COPY. What’s up with that? So basically I’m waiting for a while on that one and hoping that by the time I come to read it I’ll be able to either borrow it or purchase it for a reasonable price.

    Love this discussion as usual! Thanks!

  • Hi, Danya! Missed you a lot!
    Sorry I went MIA without any explanations. I post a short update on my blog.

    As for your discussion, I mostly
    buy e-books. My reasons: I’m allergic to dust, so I can’t read old books; I don’t
    have space for many books; e-books are cheaper. What makes me decide to buy a book?
    I buy my favorite books and usually go for hardcovers. And cover art is very
    important. With series I just can’t deal with mismatched installments. My
    solution? Wait until all books in series are released and buy all of them at
    once.

  • I’m pretty limited in my choices with this, as being international, buying in print is sort of a hassle – even if it’s free shipping, you’ll still have to wait forever, your post office will still probably lose it for you, and then the price is still probably bigger than on the Kindle. Which is why I often just go with the e-book 🙂