How to Buy Books

June 1, 2013

Using technology:

  • Go direct to the publisher and buy from them. It costs more but it also supports them and the authors they represent better than Amazon ever will.
  • Use AbeBooks to get second-hand reads. You're supporting indie bookstores in the process and developing a taste for what books really are: beautiful, life affirming objects that stay with you.
  • Pay promptly and wait.
  • Read and enjoy.
  • Recommend your places of purchase to your friends.

Not Using technology:

  • Turn off your devices and go to a bookshop.
  • Visit independent bookshops before heading to corporate ones.
  • Don't haggle with the indies. It degrades the soul.
  • Pay the price the book demands and pay in cash.
  • Refuse a plastic bag. Buy a canvas one if you want.
  • Read anywhere and enjoy.
  • Recommend your places of purchase to your friends.


  • Fuck eBooks.
  • Buy more than one book if you want. You probably will want to.
  • Browse.
  • Pick up some non-fiction and learn something new.
  • Avoid mediocrity. This is usually most of what's in the 'Best Seller' section.
  • Read a 'Best Seller' and make up your own mind.
  • Don't waste your time on parodies.
  • Waste your time on paradox.
  • Buy bad fiction and read good poetry alongside it.
  • Read the blurb.
  • Read the first page.
  • If, after having done the previous two things, the book has coloured you in, buy it.
  • Read local authors.
  • Buy a book with this thought in mind: you and the book are going to give mutual homes to one another.
  • Let a book choose you.

Image by Glamhag


Tactical operations

August 17, 2009

Going out is a very complicated process for me. It’s not as easy as picking up my keys and wallet and then skipping off into the sunset. For one thing, I can’t drive at the moment so I have to arrange transport, which is usually my Dad because he’s normally willing and has nothing better to do and he’s also the person I trust the most to help me escape from any uncomfortable situations.

Situations that are the reason for why going out is so difficult. When I say ‘going out’, I mean taking a quick trip to a shopping area to grab or look at something Amazon is unable to adequately demonstrate to my unquenchable curiosity. Going out isn’t setting myself up for a night on the tiles – I hate that, it’s boring.

When ‘going out’ comes around, I have to take into consideration where I’m going, how long I’ll be and how fast I’m going to have to walk in order to get through the crowds as quickly as possible. I make a base assumption about where I’m going and always accommodate for the fact that there are going to be people everywhere, like cockroaches.

I have to calculate the odds that what I’m looking for is going to be there – usually, I talk myself into believing that it won’t be there, just to avoid disappointment and give me some added relief, like a sort of prize you get at the end of a competition to compensate you for the ordeal.

On top of that, I often concoct witty sentences and dramatic escapes to cover the probability of having to communicate with other people and it all goes terribly wrong; they might not understand me because I talk too fast or they might not know what it is that I’m looking for and then make a huge fuss and call the manager who will look at me like I’ve just emerged from a nearby swamp.

Before I’ve even stepped out of the house though, I have to make sure my satchel is packed with essential urban survival kit: keys, phone, money, water, headphones to drown out the world, sunglasses (even indoors and in bad weather) to make it easier to avoid eye contact, and a paper bag. For cases of hyperventilation.

Everything is executed with paranoid, maniacal precision when I go out. Everything that could possibly go against me is calculated and recalculated, even when I’m finally home and a few days have passed. I spend a lot of time thinking of what can go wrong and what could have gone wrong.

Of course the best plan, the one most easily executed is the one where I don’t go out at all.

If I’d have known I was to spend my Saturday off subjecting myself to Bluewater, I would have stayed in bed. Or even better, just gone to work.

What possessed me to brave the vast interior is beyond me, but it resulted in approximately twelve minutes of terror as I was faced with the task of finding my way out of Marks and Spencer.

One wrong turn later (possibly at the handbags), I resorted to following two women back from the “Blue Car Park” (how I ended up there, I don’t know) which would have looked worryingly suspicious if I had continued to follow them beyond the French Knickers.
After finally spotting the exit into the shopping centre somewhere in the distance, I made a beeline amongst the throngs of shoppers, near clambering over trolleys and buggies in my desperation to be free.

It occurred to me, as I burst out of the shop front, that all the people I had passed somehow managed to make shopping look important. Their faces had hard looks on them, eyebrows knit together in concentration and eyes staring straight ahead at symmetrical patterns as fingers inspected sleeves and seams.

Could it be that Bluewater isn’t a shopping experience, but is actually a career?

It baffled me as I wandered past clumps of fashion that I could only assume to be people and felt sorry for the kids that were being dragged about by their mums, looking gormless. The truth is, that glazed expression may have been down the fact that every child I saw was eating a pot of frozen yogurt (a.k.a ice cream). These kids weren’t awed, they were stoned on sugary goodness.

I suddenly realised that this was how you make shopping look important. Put on your best drags and don your only pair of Gucci or Dolce and Gabanna sunglasses, and walk about with stylish paper bags for hours on end, as if you’re strutting up and down a catwalk (at this point, it helps to forget that you’re still in Kent and not London). Additionally, if you have kids, save yourself the embarrassment of being a parent by drugging them with confectionaries. They’ll keep quiet and you’ll remain gorgeous.

Adding fuel to the fire are the people who work there. I wandered into the O2 shop to look at my next upgrade – the Samsung U600. Yes, it is a commodity, but if O2 are going to give me a brand new, up-to-date mobile phone for free every twelves months in return for the pathetic £20 a month I pay, then I’m allowed to gloat. Little did I know that as soon as I set foot into the laminate-clad store, I’d be quietly stalked. Observed as I fiddled with grubby looking handsets on patches of plastic grass. Circled. Smiled at. Pounced upon like I was a juicy lunchtime snack. Do they not feed these people? Perhaps they’re threatened with thumb-screws or The Rack if they fail to reach their sales targets. Either way, the staff are no doubt there to make this the most important purchase of your life. LG Shine, or Prada

In that moment, I came to understand that I was a form of anti-christ to these people. Why? Because I’m the savvy shopper. I don’t need someone to tell me about phones, because I have the power of the interweb at my command (apart from when my router crashes). Review it online and then brave the outside world to feel it in your palm, with Anthropophobia being the price to pay for a near life time of being able to make your own informed decisions without ever having to interact with people.

I politely refused assistance (by avoiding eye contact) and left before Bluewater Security were alerted to someone not actually shopping, but god forbid – browsing.

I had only been at Bluewater for half an hour before I began feeling doubtful of my role in existence. Chatham High Street employs at least two hours to achieve this.

My day was spent dodging Professional Shoppers with their armfuls of bags and fistfuls of buggies, and queuing – on a day when the seventh Harry Potter had been released. What was I thinking? Why did I even dare to consider indulging my bibliophilistic tendencies in Waterstones when I knew it would be packed with eager fans?.

I had gone to meet a friend for the day. A good friend. Unfortunately, having to spend so much time weaving, waiting and working through what we could manage in the ways of conversation made me long for the orderliness and isolation of MSN.

Popular as it may be, Bluewater does little for real social connections and even less for someone who just wants to sit down to a cup of green tea and muse over the tranquility at the bottom.
Needless to say, I won’t be taking any of my friendships there again. Unless I want to destroy them, leaving them to drown and shatter upon the rocks of hyper-consumerism.


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