February wrap up – where are you getting your books during lockdown ?

In February I tried to blog about books which had body parts in their title or where body parts featured in the substance of the book. I don’t seem to have blogged as much as I’d hoped but I have a few additional books to write about in the future. I also still have some books with numbers in the titles to blog about from January. Reading the books is the easy bit – it takes time and energy to do the blogs !

For March, in addition to the leftover books from the first two months of the year, I will be blogging about books set in, or about, different locations across the world. This is an easier subject to find books about and I have lots on my to-be-read pile which will be suitable. I like a book that establishes a good sense of place and they don’t have to be exotic.

It is difficult to believe that in the UK we have spent nearly a year in lockdown – as inhabitants of Yorkshire we often had restrictions when other parts of the country were free of them. You would think that this virtual shut down would have greatly restricted my rabid book buying but old habits will find a way. I have been inhibited in browsing in charity shops for most of the year which is where I get the majority of my physical books but here are some of the other places I have used to purchase new books to add to the pile of unread ones.

  • Amazon – I know that it is not fashionable or even acceptable in some quarters to use Amazon and I accept that their employment practices and tax arrangements are not always ideal but Amazon has the place in the market that it does because it meets the needs of its users. I use Amazon for two types of books. Firstly, for Kindle books. I have three kindles at the moment (one of which is very much on its last legs) and Amazon is the only place I can get books for them. I also have a substantial Kindle library so there is no point moving to an alternative electronic format now. I buy lots of new books by Kindle to prevent the pile of physical books getting any larger and also because they are often cheap.

My second use of Amazon is for secondhand books via their MarketPlace feature. Lots of secondhand sellers list their books on Amazon and when I am looking for a particular title it is usually the best place to try.

  • Waterstones – I buy some new books from Waterstones by post. This shop has a loyalty card which gives you £10 off when you have bought £100 worth of books. It’s a bit of a con really because you only get one credit for each full £10 in an order so you might spend £39 but only get 3 credits – the same as if you spend £31 but they do occasional double points days which can give you more. When I buy new books physically I tend to go to Waterstones because I like to browse – there is nothing quite like it.
  • Hive – This online bookshop sells new books at mostly the same price as Waterstones but without the loyalty payments. They claim that a percentage of your sale is given to any independent bookshop that you nominate but as they are not specific about how much it is I suspect that the actual amount is not huge. When buying new books online I tend to compare Hive and Waterstones for prices. I don’t often buy new physical books but I have done a few times over the lockdown – mostly non-fiction.
  • Supermarkets – I don’t like to buy books from supermarkets because they sell only the very popular books at a discounted price and thus prevent independent bookshops and Waterstones getting people through the door. Occasionally though, I succumb. Sainsbury’s tends to have a better range than Morrisons which has a better range than Asda in my experience but different stores may vary.
  • Free book tables – Someone I was talking to on Zoom the other day said that they have a fee “library” in an old telephone box where they live. I don’t have that but occasionally people put out books on their garden wall and there is always the free book table in my local CoOp (they do ask for a donation to charity so they are not strictly free – I always give it). Some supermarkets have stopped this because of Covid but you can still find them around and often you can get great books.
  • Book Ninja – I have a subscription with Book Ninja who send me an independent secondhand book every month. These are widely varying but often interesting. They also buy independent books in exchange for an extension of my subscription so occasionally I sell them back to them for someone else to read ! They do other subscriptions and you can also buy individual titles from their website.
  • Old Curiosity Bookshop – This bookshop sells book packs. If you go on to their website it has lots of interesting selections of secondhand books for sale at very reasonable prices for a pack. If you contact them by email they will also build a pack for you around what you like – I have done this once or twice in the last year and also arranged for them to send one to my mother-in-law as I am currently unable to pass her all my castoffs because of lockdown. They also do subscriptions although I don’t have one. I understand that Age UK also sell book packs at a similar price but they send unknown books so you could get stuff that you already have.
  • A Box of Stories – this company claims to rescue unwanted books and sell them on to the customer – what it really sells is remaindered books which it gets cheaply and then sends subscription boxes of surprise new books at a very reasonable price. There is no reason why these books can’t be as good, or even better, than the bestsellers but they usually get left behind because they don’t get the same marketing. I get a box of four new books every couple of months and so far they have all been reasonable choices for the price – every third box also brings you five books instead of four. Their subscription can be managed online and it’s incredibly flexible.
  • The Works – This is another shop that sells remaindered books and is known for its 3 for £5 offer. If you buy enough online it doesn’t charge postage and you can get lots of new books for your money. I have picked up some cheap crime fiction from them recently.

Audible – I have a regular subscription to Audible for my audiobooks, although I read many fewer of them then I used to do because I am no longer commuting. Other sites are available for audio but I have only ever used Audible – they have lots of cheap sales too which really adds to the unread list.

  • Other sources – Other places I have got books over lockdown include NetGalley where I get advance reader copies although they expect a review – I have mostly stopped using NetGalley recently in the hope that eventually I will get the to-be-read pile down to manageable levels but they are useful if you are a reviewer and are happy to read electronically – they are now also starting to do audiobooks I understand. In the holiday accommodation that we inhabited when between houses they had, as many holiday cottages do, a book shelf – I took some and left a few more for others to enjoy. I don’t use it but my husband accesses the library frequently on his tablet. He reads lots of magazines and periodicals that way but also borrows audiobooks – it’s not the largest selection in the world but it’s free and easily accessible.

I expect that you have other sources for your books during lockdown – I hope you have enough to keep reading !