Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tips on Building a Library

If you know anything about me, you know that I'm practically obsessed with books. I'm obsessed with books because I'm obsessed with knowledge, and the fact of the matter is that you simply cannot commit to true education without books. From nearly the beginning of time until now, the written word has been used to convey information to the current, as well as later, generations. Even our Heavenly Father himself spoke to his people through a book. Don't you think he could have done it through a song, or even a movie if he had wanted to? Of course. But he didn't. He used simple marks on paper. There is indeed something special about the written word.

That said, I buy books for two reasons. The first is, clearly, for myself. You won't ever see me buy books on sports or snatch up the latest Harlequin romance novel. Instead, you will see me drooling over the latest paleontology publications, buying histories, and trying to track down pure editions of the great military strategy manuals. You will also see me pay attention to the books of my opponents, up to and including using their own literature; subjects ranging from false religions, to Evolution, to aliens are represented. I even once bought a cheap (used) copy of The Communist Manifesto (which then strangely disappeared, never to be seen again--weird). You won't find much fiction; I'm not into much of it, and if I'm going to buy it, it has to be good (a good start is G.A. Henty). All this reflects my desire to build an archive. Did I mention that I also have a massive magazine collection and also buy documentaries? I'm "obsessed" with learning. I told you that. This is all part of it. I won't quit.

The second reason is more properly expressed by men such as Douglas Phillips (see here). When I pass from this earth, I don't want to see my library broken up and sold. I don't want to see it disseminated and passed out to thrift shops and public libraries. I want it to go to people who care. My library is also for my children; my library is also for my sons. My archival nature will then be a great store of knowledge and learning which they will grow up with and one day inherit. I hope it will be a treasure to them. I am not in the business of collecting James Patterson, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. I'm not interested in comics or manga, Percy Jackson, or Harry Potter. I may receive some flak for saying this, but I do not classify those who merely collect little stories and tales and few other sorts as true library builders. A true library is knowledge-centered; pursuing a fiction collection is fine and may be well enough for the purposes of said person, but it is not a real, multi-generational educational tool. Therefore, it is not truly a library. No doubt, some fiction is great (and some even a must), but I believe such things should be an accessory to a library, not the backbone. Analyze your books (You do have books, don't you?), and classify accordingly. Do you have mostly fake stories, or books that would bore the average pagan bum? (Because if you're boring the average pagan bum, you might be on the right track.) Analyze the reasons you buy books. Refine them if you wish, or keep them the same; that is up to you, not me.

Now let's set the philosophizing aside now and get down to business. With all my countless hobbies and interests, building my library always takes precedence. But I am certainly no Bill Gates, and clearly I am not even to be considered "wealthy." I'm not in love with my own "experience," but after doing this from my early teenage years on I have picked up a trick or two. This post is intended to help other believers, youngsters, or those possibly just learning the value of a manly library (or a feminine one, if you so choose!). This is a how-to guide on buying books on a shoestring budget. Take note, kiddies! This will be the first time I fully discuss all of my shady bibliophilic methods (ha!).

- For everyone, everywhere, Amazon.com is one of the best book retailers out there. With a vast selection, including books you can't easily find elsewhere (they are the source I rely on for paleo books), competitive prices, and easy qualifications for free shipping, Amazon is the library builder's friend. I just placed an order a few nights ago (using a free gift card I got via the Wells Fargo credit card rewards program--free books!), buying both Amazon-direct books (with free shipping) and books from some individual sellers (kind of like eBay). This can all be done in one simple transaction although shipping will be charged by the sellers (clearly). Take a browse, Amazon.com. Check for your kind of books, or, take a peek at my Amazon store and see what I offer (fellow blogger Gravelbelly's store is also worth note--but please make use of the category listing on the right-hand sidebar for both of our stores, it's easy to miss it). Either way, if you aren't already, you need to get acquainted with Amazon! (Note: Amazon is also a simple, cheap way to buy magazine subscriptions, DVDs, CDs, and even MP3 files.)

- For those who have access to urban areas, try to find stores such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc. While their prices aren't normally as good as Amazon, a fair portion of my library has been built by consistently hunting their bargain racks. Often bought at closeout prices by such bookstores themselves, Barnes and Borders offer them for great deals and there isn't anything wrong with the books at all (for instance, they aren't necessarily worn, damaged, etc.). Likewise, watch their sales, and consider signing up for their discount programs and such. A consistent and relentless shopper is a good shopper. You may just find some treasures. I once found a dinosaur book I had never seen before and never seen since, nor never heard of outside of the book itself. I got it for $6 and love it to this day.

- Keep an eye out for "used" bookstores associated with public libraries. Often called "Friends of the Library" stores, they received donations from the general public and can sell them at a ridiculous bargain. Often run by volunteers only, this keeps the price down but causes customer service to drop (so don't expect too much help with finding that one book you've been wanting...). Expect old books but not too old (even an unacquainted novice will snatch that and mark it up high), expect them often in bad shape, but with prices such as $1 and even $0.50, how can you go wrong? At worst, you can one day replace the book if you find a better copy and you'll be out a buck or so. What's the big deal? This is a fantastic way to build libraries on a limited budget; countless of my own books have been purchased this way, some of them a little higher in price, some not. I have found some good treasures, and have also found countless magazines from ten to twenty-five cents. If you have access to any of these stores, use them. Shop often and shop relentlessly. Befriending the volunteers (old ladies in my experience) also has it perks, my experiences prove.

- Look up local used bookstores. I've used this method with only limited success; I don't always find what I'm looking for and am rarely willing to pay their high prices for old and worn goods, but once in a while, it's worth it to keep your eyes peeled. And if you're looking to get rid of any old books (hopefully this practice will not be too common for you?), try to find a store that will at least give you store credit for your donations. You can at least find something, I hope (if you're a library-builder, something or other should be suitable). I once obtained an old TIME magazine with a dinosaur cover in this way. Likewise, never judge a book by its cover! I once lived near an Asian strip mall and only entered what turned out to be a Japanese used book/DVD store after a recommendation from another bookseller. They paid me cash (via a little blue dish, ha) for a lot of the old books I wanted to discard; not store credit, cash! Things are not always as they seem. (But please note, if you use this method, don't browse anything you can't read. That day marked the day that I learned just exactly what was inside of many mangas. :-O)

- And finally, you must use your own judgement. Find ways to purchase the books that you want that will work for you. For example, Vision Forum often sells the kind of books that I want and will purchase. They are competitive in their pricing but not dirt cheap (the enormous Amazon might beat them a couple of dollars), but I like to buy from them to support them, and if you watch their very frequent sales, you can get some amazing deals. I've gotten away with some real steals from them. For example, while it's not books, take a look at this. Unbelievable deal? I'd say! I also like the books that Paladin Press and American Vision sell. And just a few months ago, I took advantage of economic distress and unashamedly snatched books up for pennies at a closing bookstore (I got one for thirty-three cents, literally). Don't feel bad about it! So, basically, just keep your own gig and mind, and practice accordingly. Think, watch, strategize, and act!

So, let me know. Do you have any tips of your own? Have any of mine been helpful? Make sure to tell me!

Spencer

10 comments:

olde.fashioned said...

*applauds* This is excellent! Only I would have entitled your post "A Spencerian Treatise on Building a Library" LOL!

Mariah :) said...

Ha! The title of this post immediately caught this bookworm's eye! Although I do disagree with you on the merits of fiction (a lot can be said in an unreal situation that cannot be said nearly so powerfully otherwise). Much of the fiction I own (except what I got for free or for my future classroom library) are the type of books that you keep going back to, because they've taught you something, or because they've become part of you.

Oh, in case you were wondering about the free books, they're from a children's literature class I took. My teacher has all sorts of connections in the publishing world, so each class period he gave us a book, either folded-and-gathered sheets (unbound paperback for reviewing purposes) or I forgot the name for it, but they're chapter books/novels for reviewing purposes etc., that you can't sell. I had the hardest time getting rid of one of them--it went along with the post-Twilight trend, except evidently with ghosts. I didn't read it. I finally found a cousin who wanted it...

olde.fashioned said...

Mariah: Do you mean Advance Reader copies?

Johann said...

Well I wouldn't know where to start. As far as history goes, I would recommend the "Uncle Eric" books by Richard J. Maybury. They are excellent...of course I would also recommend the works of DiLorenzo.

I guess I'll just throw some of what I've been reading at you...
mises.org
Go read.
You'll probably want about a dozen books by Rothbard, Von Mises, and Nock after you finally pull yourself away. (I still want to find The Freeman by Nock.) Go drool...
Sorry, this is disjointed and probably off-topic.
Anyway...
I'd say use your public library a lot. Then go buy what you want...
~Johann

The People's Will said...

Great post! I also have an extensive and ever-growing library (also almost exclusively non-fiction). I am an anthropology student with particular interest in China, reflected by the composition of my collection, but I have plenty of history, natural history and palaeontology books too.

I completely agree with you regarding Amazon (though I use .co.uk) - it is excellent for discounted new books as well as cheap second-hand (but often fine condition) copies on the Marketplace. It's great for rare books (for example, through Amazon I have managed to find plenty of translations of obscure ancient Chinese works). I would also recommend AbeBooks, which works in a similar way to Amazon Marketplace and is particularly good if you want something specific (such as a First Edition of a classic).

I live in London and attend UCL (University College London), and there are plenty of bookshops in the university area which are great for unusual titles and academic books (and often have student discounts). So if you are after more uncommon books, such as palaeontology volumes, more obscure philosphy/theology, anthropology etc I would recommend checking bookshops near universities (I have found the same to be the case in Oxford - where there's a university, the bookshops carry a staggering range you just wouldn't find in a standard town branch).

Something I have meant to do for a long time is start a reading journal, which I finally did last week. The purpose is to record what books you read as you finish them, and there are actually plenty of commercial journals designed for this purpose though you could jsut as easily use a standard notebook or the computer. It's great as it lets you keep a record of your reading and your opinions of each book, and reassures you that if you forget exactly what you read or liked/disliked about a book you have a written record. The next step I'll be taking will be to catalogue my entire library, something I plan to do over Easter.

The Warrior said...

Mariah: Advanced readers--very shoestring indeed (if you can get 'em!). Spencer is just such a snob though that he prefers "real" editions....

Johann: The library technique is an excellent, necessary one. Thanks for bringing it up!

Mo (I still can call you that, eh?): Great idea about university areas; not shoestring in of itself, but definitely one I hadn't thought of and one I will have to try. (That reminds me, the first time I ever was in a university bookstore I was something like, "I want THIS, and THAT, and OOH look at those biology flash cards!...")

I've done a form of a reading journal for many years now. I started recording the books I read, the also did magazine articles (became necessary, I keep my mags and when I go back to read old issues I need to know if I've read it or not) , and even documentaries and audio (such as lectures, sermons, etc.). I used to use paper (see my system in "P.S." here: http://drpaleophd.blogspot.com/2009/01/new-year.html#links). This year I switched to a computer file--as much of my reading is online articles, it's just plain easier. A notebook is cool, but whatever works for you is great. I find I really like this system. Great for if you ever want to go back and check something!

Thanks for the quality comment there; your input is much appreciated! :-D (And, if I may be so bold, I also appreciate someone who fundamentally disagrees with my outspoken blog views yet still can discuss OTHER topics!)

Thanks, all! Hope this post was helpful; I know I sure had fun!

Spencer

olde.fashioned said...

In vain I have struggled -- it will not do! My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire your taste in books, but respectfully disagree with you in regards to the subject of fiction. However as we all know; any person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. (This of course does not include your own excellent self, dear brother!)

Can you not deny the value of such literary contributions that record for future members of posterity, those little details which are sadly all to often lost without those painstaking efforts to record them, which, oftentimes, come in the form of a well-written volume of artistic creation?

How about the value of a story with strong emphasis on historical accuracies, created for young minds purposefully to instill within them an undying love and appreciation for things and times past?

You must of course forgive your very silly sister for all of that nonsense she spouted just now. I swear I didn't come here intending to climb up onto an antique reproduction soapbox and preach an antiquated sermon at you!!! ;-P Sometimes I think it's a disease -- I really really do...

Joshua Horn said...

If you can't find a book on Amazon (I have found that it does not have many that are out of print) I also would recommend Abebooks. It is kind of like being able to go to a used book store, but you can automatically go to the one that has the cheapest price in the entire world. :) You can get lots for less than $10 with shipping when in your normal used bookstore they would be $20+.

WildWeazel said...

At least where I'm from, public libraries sell old and/or rarely checked out books for a dollar or less near the entrance, and sometimes people will leave boxes of old books and magazines free for the taking. Also, if you're looking for a classic, anything out of (or pre-) copyright can be found at various free e-book sites. And speaking of e-books, I don't know if it's the same for other topics, but these days most new technology books can be bought from the publisher in PDF format for less than the cover price.

The Warrior said...

Lauren: Didn't I just say limited fiction and not fiction-less? I repeat, f you're library is knowledge-based, you will largely have nonfiction. It's simple!

Joshua: I will have to try Abebooks now....

WW: Yes, I almost mentioned PDFs myself, but chose not to for the purposes of this post (difficult for multi-generational library building, but yes, often free).

Thanks for all the input everyone!

Spencer