I have a confession to make.
I almost went back to bookselling last year.
Hell, that’s not totally true – I actually almost went back to bookselling the year before that.
Not because I wanted to increase public literacy. Not because my icy heart melted a little when a customer celebrated a new author find. Not even due to my subversive need to get people hooked on new genres by introducing them to a gateway
Nope, I almost went back to bookselling because I missed the perks – specifically my discount, my ability to check out new releases and the ARCs.
Actually, that’s also a bit of a lie. I don’t really miss the ARCs we’d get at my store because we weren’t really on the radar for the titles I thought I wanted.
But the discount? The ability to use the store as my own personal library? Those things I miss, almost enough to try and pick up a shift shelving, lugging and greeting to get it back.
I know this doesn’t exactly come as a newsflash to the greater reading population,* but books are expensive, and as a single income household who would eventually like to use that single income own her own home, that cost is oftentimes prohibitive. I can’t afford to drop a lot on books I may or may not like, and even if I could, I don’t have that much room in my house. The majority of my current book buying is done digitally as it allows me to expand my reading without expanding my bookcases, and allows me to indulge in the appearance of impulse shopping.
I say appearance because 90% of the books I buy digitally are by authors I’ve read and liked previously. The other 10% I bought based on very strong recommendations and my ability to access free content (excerpts, first five chapters, etc).
When I was a bookseller, I was willing to take a chance on the new to me author with the pretty cover because I had the option to check out the title to read, or buy it at discount even if I was on the fence/wanted to be encouraging. If I was feeling a little wishy-washy I could always take it to the backroom and read a little on my lunch break. In ye ol’ bookselling days, there were several books I purchased simply because I knew other people would like them.** With my discount, this kind of expense wasn’t as much of a barrier, but now any book I buy in paper has to go through the checklist:
• Do I like this author?
• Will I read this again?
• Is there a digital version that is less expensive or do I have a coupon?
• Will I want to loan this out?
• Can I get this from the library soon?
Before I even walk into a bookstore I have answered most of these questions, and this pre-shopping (if you will) has resulted in a decrease in my actual aisle browsing. Because I go knowing what I want, where it’s located, and how much I have to spend, I don’t wander like I used to. I don’t discover in the same way. And that’s pretty sad, for someone whose job used to be telling people about the greatest, newest thing.
So, once, or twice, or even three times a year, I think about going back to bookselling and taking on a fifty hour work week. I consider taking on the stress of customer service to get that old thrill of opening boxes full of new stock. I long for the ability to be the first to know.
And right about the time I get to filling out the application I realize, if I went back, if I really committed to taking on a second job, I wouldn’t have the time to read those new books anyway.
Sometimes it’s better to just see what the library has instead.
*Someone told me recently that the first thing all financial planning books tell you is to stop buying books, and use the library. I love my library and make great use of it, but this just made me cry.
**Sure, I might get around to reading them one day, but I could think of three people who would read them now.