Addicted to Buying Books

A recent picture of my unread pile
A recent picture of my unread pile

If you're reading this article then the chances are that, like me, you have a habit you need to get under control. Books spill from the double and triple stacked shelves, more are piled on the floor, on your desk and yet you can't stop yourself from buying more. It's almost impossible to walk past a bookshop without just popping in for a look and how can you pass up the opportunity to check the charity shop for a bargain paperback?

If only we read as fast as we bought. If only we could bring ourselves to give a few away after we've finished reading them!

I am a confirmed book addict. My one bedroom flat is littered with books read once and for the most part, likely never again. Occasionally I rifle through them, looking for a few to give away. I can never come up with more than a handful of mediocre titles at best, things that, knowing what I know now I've read them, I wouldn't buy even second hand. I shame myself into keeping them.

But I have got the habit of purchasing new books under control, for the most part. I've had a few slips this year (including one month during which I bought fifteen new books!) but for the most part I've been able to keep a lid on my book buying.

Give Yourself a Goal

Back in 2008 I set myself the task of reading every unread book on my bookshelf. This actually prompted more book buying until the list grew and grew, spiraling out of control. I had twenty eight unread books on my shelves at the beginning of 2008. By 2009 I had almost a hundred.

I had to do something about my habit which was becoming extremely expensive and so I began to make smaller, more achievable goals for myself. I would read ten, then if I wanted a new one, allow myself to buy it. I soon found I was down to fifty, then twenty-five. At my lowest I had only fourteen unread books on my shelf and it was then that I relapsed and bought fifteen books in one month, twelve of which were on the same day. I'm now back at about twenty books and that includes some pretty weighty tomes so they ought to last me to the end of the year, if not longer and that's my current target- no new books until January 1st.


Organize Your Reading

Create a reading list of all the unread books on your shelf and any books you have to buy for work or for a class. Consult it before you choose your next book and don't buy anything that's not on the list. You can set up a Goodreads account to keep track of your reading list and it's a fun way to meet other book-lovers. If you've got friends in the local area on there then it's a great way to see what books they've got so you can borrow them or perhaps arrange a swap.

Take Advantage of Free Ebooks

One way I have managed to reduced my books purchased this year is by getting myself an eReader and downloading free ebooks from Amazon and Project Gutenberg. There's a wealth of classics available to download on Project Gutenberg and it's given me my first taste of Virginia Woolf, Kafka and Goethe amongst many other brilliant authors. There are a number of eReaders now on the market and Project Gutenberg supports most formats.

If you don't have an eReader then you can still read free ebooks online. If you have an Iphone or an Android then there are eReader apps available or you can download one onto your laptop, tablet computer or PC. If you don't want to download a reader then most Project Gutenberg books are available to read online simply using your web browser.

Join a Library

Its sounds obvious enough but I know lots of people who read a great deal but never use their local library. They'll champion the place but when it comes to going in there and checking out a book, they never do it.

It comes back to my earlier comments about hoarding books that will probably never be read again. I know a lot of readers, myself included, who simply love owning books and enjoy seeing them on the shelves and they will always buy books. But if you're running out of space and need to save a bit of money then the library will help you to choose which ones to buy. Read it first, if it's great then go to your local bookstore and pick up a copy to keep.

Has anyone else got any tips for controlling their book habit?

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Comments 17 comments

rabecker profile image

rabecker 5 years ago

I have several hundred books. Many I have read more then twice. If you are interested, I published a hub talking about an app called Overdrive. It is a cross platform App. What it does is allow you to check out eBooks from your local library, anytime, anywhere you want. The ebooks are good for 14 days. I also have another hub that talks about a few ereader apps on the iPad/iPhone. I like the Project Gutenberg web sites, they are a few different ones. What maybe unavailable at one countries site [due to copy right laws] might be available at another countries Gutenberg site.

Thank you for this hub, as I also am working on getting into eBooks.


Deni Edwards profile image

Deni Edwards 5 years ago from california

So, I'm not alone after all. The only thing is that I don't view it as a problem that needs to be controlled. Although I will always have an unread book pile, I always end up reading them, replacing them, reading them, etc. Some of the unread books stay in the pile longer than others (even years)--but I do get to them.

I'm unable to purchase books new anymore since it is so expensive, but I do go to the book exchange about every other week and pick up about 15 books each time, only costing me three or four dollars.

As for hoarding, well, there isn't anything I can do about it. I have a difficult time getting rid of books, like you. But I also enjoy looking at all of my books.

I'm not a fan of e-books, either. Honestly, I suppose it could be viewed as a problem by some people, but hey, I can think of worse addictions.


Hayley Richardson profile image

Hayley Richardson 5 years ago from London, UK Author

rabacker- I'm very interested in this Overdrive app but I don't have an Iphone or Android phone to read off. Is there anyway of putting it on Kindle?


Hayley Richardson profile image

Hayley Richardson 5 years ago from London, UK Author

Deni- It is definitely a problem for me as my flat is so tiny I'm running out of room for them all. Then again you could say my problem was that my flat was too small, or that I don't own enough bookshelves! Mostly I've had to cut back for economic reasons. I live in London and one secondhand paperbook from a charity shop usually costs roughly £3, which is about $5 at the current exchange rate. I also had a very expensive antiquarian book habit at one stage and I was spending $200-$300 per month on those. I could have taken up a much more troublesome habit for that sort of cash!


emichael profile image

emichael 5 years ago from New Orleans

I feel like I just read something written by my subconscious. I have piles of books stacked on my coffee table, floor, bookshelves, you name it. I can't walk in a bookstore without walking out with something. But, like you, I've reigned in my habit of buying new books. But it's still pretty bad, because instead of buying 2 new books, I buy 12 used, and it ends up being about the same. Hah.

I have about 300 unread books in my life right now. I've packed away most of the ones I've read, leaving these that I have yet to read.

As far as what I've done to help my habit, I've printed out a couple of reading lists. Things like 100 books to read before you die. Since I have most of them, I'm going through it like a checklist. It's keeping me occupied somewhat.

But I've just come to terms with the fact that I will probably never stop buying books. It's something I love to do. It's a hobby. People spend money on all sorts of different hobbies, and this is just one of mine :)

I tell myself that I'm preparing for when I have a house and can have a library. Walls full of books. But I dream...


Hayley Richardson profile image

Hayley Richardson 5 years ago from London, UK Author

emichael- Ah, the library- that's been my excuse before too! The main reason I've tried to cut down on buying books is so I can get up the deposit to buy a house, which will of course have a library. Of course when I have the house I'll probably go crazy again. Perhaps I'm fighting a losing battle!


emichael profile image

emichael 5 years ago from New Orleans

Well, you're thinking smart. But yes, it's probably a losing battle :)


2patricias profile image

2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

I try to use the library, and to read books passed on by friends.

I have also set an upper price limit for buying books.

The problem is that I have run out of space!


Hayley Richardson profile image

Hayley Richardson 5 years ago from London, UK Author

The price limit is a great idea. I often see books I've bought and before I get a chance to read them I see it cheaper somewhere else or second hand and then kick myself.


emichael profile image

emichael 5 years ago from New Orleans

Here's something I forgot to mention. If ever I'm in a new bookstore like Barnes & Noble or whatever, and I see a book I like, I'll scan the barcode in my phone (or take a picture if you can) and look it up on Amazon later. Guaranteed to find it cheaper.


Hayley Richardson profile image

Hayley Richardson 5 years ago from London, UK Author

I love this idea for two reasons: first, the cheaper book, but secondly I'm really fickle, so if I do this I might decide when I get home that I no longer want to buy the book anyway (I do a lot of spur of the moment purchasing!). Fantastic idea!


roc6 profile image

roc6 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

I have the same problem, I buy from charity shops or second hand shops. I do set a limit as too how much I spend, I also tend to be reading about 4 or 5 at the same time.


Hayley Richardson profile image

Hayley Richardson 5 years ago from London, UK Author

I try to read several at once too- the more I'm reading the less are sat there unread!


Sarahredhead profile image

Sarahredhead 5 years ago from Southern United States

Ohhhh, are we related??! Between my husband and I - it's plum ridiculous. We just thinned the herd - we had close to 1000 books!!! We were using books as furniture... Great hub. It's helping me cope!


Hayley Richardson profile image

Hayley Richardson 5 years ago from London, UK Author

Were you using them as an occasional table- that's what I do with the big piles. The one next to my desk is great for resting tea cups on haha!


The Fastionista 5 years ago

Hi Hayley - I absolutely have the same problem! But I moved to a new area about two years ago and found a lovely little library that I visit at least a few times a month - that's helped loads! For me it was all about habit - once I started up with the library, I hit the bookstore less and less. Great hub!


tatumrangel profile image

tatumrangel 2 years ago from Los Angeles

I definitely can relate to this problem. My bookshelf is already full. In fact, most of the books on the shelf are ones I haven't read yet, not to mention a stack of books I keep on the floor right by the bookshelf. I recently bought a few books. Luckily, they were purchased with gift cards, so I saved money. Nevertheless, I still want to add more books to my library. In the meantime, however, I often check out books at my local library, which is another way to save money and, of course, to see if the books are worth buying in the future. Thank you for this hub.

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