Poll Time For Readers

We’ve run some polls from time to time aimed primarily at writers, but this one is for readers (of which writers are a subset — or ought to be.) Where do you get your books?
on Apr 30, 2012 · No comments

We’ve run some polls from time to time aimed primarily at writers, but this one is for readers (of which writers are a subset — or ought to be. 😉 ) Where do you get your books?

The book business is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up, but I wonder if readers are changing their habits too. It’s actually tempting to run three separate polls because here’s what I’m curious about:

  • How do you determine what books to read?
  • Where do you get the books you’re reading?
  • Have you changed how you get books in the last five or so years?

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll focus on the middle question — where do you get the books you’re reading.

When I grew up, the most popular place to get books was the library. I had access to wonderful libraries. My junior high library, for example, would be the envy of many city libraries today.

However, I’m guessing that over time affluence and marketing has changed readers’ procurement habits. First the Big Book Chains supplanted independent book stores. And these very large stores were reader friendly, had an outrageous selection, and carried the newest releases.

Then Amazon came along. Suddenly buying books was cheaper and easier.

As if that wasn’t enough, e-readers opened up a whole new source of literature. Suddenly small press publications became accessible to the greater public, and so did self-pubbed works. Wow! Many more books to choose from.

So how do we? Is it still friend recommendation that matters most? I suspect so. But how have all the changes affected you? Do you buy more books? Use the library less often? Let’s take a look at how we’re getting the books we read.

Choose from the list below the three that most accurately describe how you get the books you read.

By the way, if you happen to leave a comment telling us how you determine what books to read and if your procurement habits have changed in the last five or so years, I wouldn’t be unhappy about it. 😀

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
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  1. I’m totally going to keep an eye on this poll. I’m surprised by the library stats.

    • I’m surprised at the library stats, too, Shannon. Happy about it, but surprised. We’ll see if they remain high throughout. I’d love to have visitors share this link so we can draw in as many readers as possible. It will give us a more accurate view, I think.



    • Lauren says:

      Don’t be too surprised by the library stats — although I see they’ve slipped a little. Speaking as someone who’s worked at a mid-sized library for three years, I’ve seen the number of people using our library go steadily up. It’s mostly the economy, I think.
      As for myself, I mostly borrow books, and buy the ones I love. As a college student with only a part time job, I just don’t have the money to buy all the books that I want to read. I’m lucky that my town has a cute local bookstore, although I mostly buy used titles there, because I hate to pay full price. But it’s a great place! And there’s a Barnes and Noble not too far that I visit occasionally. But mostly I buy books on Amazon, I admit. 
      I haven’t taken the plunge and bought an e-reader yet, though. Maybe when they’re under $50.
      Mostly I choose books based on the back cover blurb/first few pages, or because I trust the author. Some times I borrow books just based on the cover, though. And internet reviews are a huge help as well. My friends and I have different tastes, so I don’t usually go off their recommendations. 

  2. But so many of them applied to me!  Do you know how hard it was to choose just three?  I needed to choose five!

    Out of curiousity, what is a “Big Box” store? 

    • Ooooohhh, I totally should have explained “Big Box” that’s the term I’ve heard here in SoCal for places like WalMart, Target, Cosco, etc.  (No wonder nobody was picking that one!) 😕


  3. Galadriel says:

    Part of my answer is that I have no money, and the other part is that I am a college student who must read many textbooks…if I could have chosen a fourth,I would have gone for “free ebooks.”

    • Galadriel, I added the free ebook download as an option. I should have put it there but in my mind since Amazon treats the freebies as if I’m buying them, then I figured that would count. But now we can separate the two, so that should be interesting.

      Yes, no money is a challege for those of us who like to read. I love the chance blog tours offer to get books in exchange for a review. Not a hard thing, from my perspective. Otherwise I’d have to wait until books come to the library — sort of like waiting for the hottest movies to finally get to the $1 theater. 😉


  4. J.L. Mbewe says:

    I love going into an actual bookstore (especially if they have a coffee shop within, yum!). I like to see all the books lined up on the shelves and look at their cover art. I love the smell of new books. Unfortunately, money is tight and we’ve moved a ways from an actual books store so I don’t go there as often as I would like. I used to stare dreamily at what little books Walmart had 🙂 I’ve always gone to a library my whole life, but I also like ownership of books. I love to be able to share them with friends (something ebooks hinder). Now days, I still go to library. Being a mom with young kids and counting my pennies, I do almost all of my research for a new book online. Searching Amazon, websites, bloggians, places where I connect with my fellow writers/readers. I read the reviews, look up unknown authors, if the cover art looks good and story is intriguing I might take a chance on it, if others I know recommend it, that chance grows. Now that I’m part of book club that also adds a dimension to what I read/buy. Some times, I probably wouldn’t have picked up a book selection if it hadn’t been for the book club. But I’m always looking for a good read. 🙂 

    • JL, I love going to actual book stores too. I love the atmosphere and the browsing. I love reading the parts most people ignore (acknowledgments and author bio). I was heartbroken when Borders closed their doors.

      Book clubs and such are good to introduce us to books we might not have read otherwise. I’ve done that too and am happy to be exposed to different authors.


  5. Kessie says:

    I get books primarily from the library. The free ebook thing on Amazon, with the jlllions of classic books, has been total “kid in candy shop”. I also borrow from friends. I get most of my new books for Christmas. I just develop the list of books I want all year.

    • When I first got my Kindle I started downloading a bunch of those free classics, too Kessie. But then I realized I didn’t really have time to read them, what with all the books I’ve stacked up to review. But it’s nice to know I can. 😀


  6. I guessed that “Big Box” means big chain stores, like Barnes and Noble, and “brick and morter” is more like a used bookstore or a mom and pop set up. It was hard for me to choose three. When I first got my Kindle, I downloaded over 200 free books and was reading them like crazy, ’til I dropped it in a certain porcelain bowl. The library is a huge source, but I go through phases. Right now, I’m actually determined to read stuff on my shelf that’s been sitting there forever, most of which come from used bookstores. But I also borrow and buy online.

    • Betty Ann, if you drive east on Washington Blvd. from my apt. there’s a place that advertises repair of water-damaged devices. I’m not sure it includes Kindles, but you might look into it.

      Keeping my Kindle away from spills and crumbs is big on my list, but I wonder for how long. I mean, who wants to read about without having a cup of coffee or an ice tea or lunch or … you get my drift.


  7. […] got to thinking about our reading habits and decided to put up a poll on Spec Faith to learn where readers are getting their books these days. The thing is, I really want to know […]

  8. Jill Stengl says:

    I usually read a book before I spend money on it, unless the author is one I know and trust to write something I will love (or on the rare occasions I’m tempted beyond resistance by a thrilling review or a gorgeous cover–I usually regret those impulse purchases). Many of the books I currently own were purchased or requested as gifts because I first read them through a library and craved to reread at will.
    I own a Nook, but most of the books on it are classics (the complete works of Louisa May Alcott, for instance) or free ebooks. My husband wants me to buy all future books on my Nook, but I don’t think an ebook will ever take the place of a real book in my heart.
    Becky, your comment about eating and drinking while reading brought to mind my reading “vice”– soaking in a bubblebath until the water gets cold while striving to keep a tried-and-true paperback friend from gaining new waterspots. Sure wouldn’t try that with my Nook! 🙂

    • HA! Jill, I think I have a chance, at least, to read my Kindle while having a cup of coffee.

      I rarely do impulse buys either. I remember shortly after I started writing full time, I was in Borders browsing books. I found a fantasy that looked intriguing, but at the last second I backed off because I’d never heard of the author. It was then that I realized how hard it actually is to sell books. I mean something has to get readers to that place of willing to risk.

      This is where ebooks help, I think. Less risk.


  9. Leanna says:

    The LIBRARY (<3) has been my favourite place for books since I was a kid and probably always will be as long as they are around. I actually enjoy when people have made notes or underlined in the books. 🙂 If the book is terrible then I haven’t wasted any money on it and if it is wonderful then it goes on a wish list to buy.

    I’ve only had my kindle since Christmas but I am loving it immensely as well. As my Dad puts it: “It’s like carrying a bookstore around with you.” Despite the search function and active tables of content, it is inconvenient for skipping around between favourite passages. I notice this especially during Bible study.
    How I pick my books:
    Family/friend recommendations – carries a varying amount of influence depending on how much I’ve enjoyed previous recommendations from that person
    Newbery medal winner or honour book – I’ve read all the current winners, working my way through the honour books

    New release by a favourite author

    Online review that catches my eye – particularly if it is from a blogger/reviewer who tends to like what I like

    Occasionally cover art or title might catch my eye while genre browsing (at either a physical bookstore or online) but the backcopy and first few pages have to be exceptionally intriguing before I’ll take the risk.

    • Oooohh, Leanna, I love your list of how you pick the books you read. Solid! I wonder how many other pick books based on awards they may have won.

      I actually trust YA or MG awards more than I do adults.


  10. Bainespal says:

    To satisfy my craving for other worlds, I read the the big mainstream secular fantasy (and some science fiction) titles from my free public library.  I’m also currently reading the Harry Potter series from my community college’s library.  The only thing that keeps me from reading through the libraries’ entire collections of contemporary high fantasy and space opera is the fact that my time is not infinite.

    I buy the books that interest me but are not available from libraries.  Namely, I buy the books from the Christian speculative fiction community that interest me, usually from Amazon.  I prefer printed books, but I will buy an ebook (from the Kindle store or elsewhere) to read on my laptop if doing so will save me money.

    I also sometimes buy books that I’ve read before and really loved, mostly to give as Christmas or birthday gifts.  Often, I either read a book for free from the library or cheaply as an ebook before I decide to buy a print copy.

    I like bookstores, and there’s a local Barnes and Noble.  I don’t use it often.  The prices are high.  Sometimes, Walmart or a local overstock clearance store have good prices on popular books, but it’s too hit-and-miss to be a reasonable market for me on the occasions when I want to buy a book. 

  11. Christian says:

    I regularly visited the library when I lived with my family. I’d go in once a week to borrow dvds and books. Now that I live in a small country town, there are very little opportunities to do such things (one of the toughest points of living in a quiet place).
    I rarely borrow books from friends. Most of them don’t read much at all.
    I used to buy books more regularly from brick and mortar shops but now I seem to buy more books online. Books are hugely expensive in Australia and I can generally find what I’m looking for and buy it for cheaper overseas (the wait to receive said package is over two weeks, that’s the down side). Book Depository is a favourite of mine. I’ve never heard of Big Box shops so I can’t comment on that one. I’ve read a few e-Books in the past few years but I prefer hard copies. That said I have a few Charles Williams e-books I would love to read soon.

  12. Sounds like most have a bit of a “flowchart” approach to finding books. Here’s mine.

    1. Do I want the novel, and want to own it?

    a. If yes, purchase from Amazon retailer or direct seller. Criteria: lowest cost alone, including shipping.

    b. If no, borrow from friend or public library.

    2. Is the offer for a free Kindle book that looks interesting?

    a. If yes, download to PC Kindle software. Then rarely, if ever, actually read it.

    That last why I have decided against getting a Kindle. I already don’t read the books on the software, and I doubt having the electronic device would change that.

    I also enjoy going into bookstores. But they either don’t have the books I’d enjoy reading, or I would prefer buying the book elsewhere anyway at a lower cost (especially if I can top that magic $25 figure on Amazon and get free shipping).

    Regarding a public library, the last intentional series I borrowed from a library was the Harry Potter series. My reasoning: I wanted to read them, but thought borrowing them was somehow spiritually superior to spending money! (I felt this way also when I borrowed the DVDs for films 1 through 4, and got a free ticket to the theater showing of film 5.) However, I now no longer believe this way, and later bought all the books.

    • Galadriel says:

      About right. Although there should be a little loop from borrow to buy, because a lot of people don’t  buy books until after they’d tried them.

  13. I voted library, online, and e-reader.  I like to scope out a book first and read reviews, so I’ll look online first when a title catches my interest.  If the book is common, it’s a good bet that the library will have it and I check it out there first (and later buy it or add to my wish list if I enjoyed it).  I learned long ago, though, that Christian speculative fiction is NEVER at our small-town library.  🙁  But I don’t mind buying those online, because I know it supports those authors and most Christian books wouldn’t have sexual scenes or other content I’d avoid.  Lately, I buy books mostly for my Kindle, because it’s cheaper on my small budget and I don’t have to wait around at my mailbox for days to get my hands on it.  😀  I very much like my Kindle, most of all its portability, but if I like an ebook enough to want to read it multiple times, I’d buy a hard copy, because an ebook is no substitute for the feeling of a cherished book in one’s hands.  🙂

    I love going *into* brick and mortar book stores, but I rarely buy books there unless I had a specific title in mind.  I wander around, check out back cover blurbs in the sci-fi and fantasy aisle, and generally delight in the bookishness.  😀

    This is probably a bit irrelevant to this particular discussion, but I also buy a lot of children’s books second-hand at library sales, thrift stores, and used book stores.  Picture books are easy to flip through and “screen” in a few minutes (if I’m not already familiar with the book) and often a stack of them can be snapped up for a song.

  14. I’m loving these responses and quite frankly can’t keep up with all of them, but I wanted to let you know that I’m reading with interest. I’m also beginning to see a pattern. So far it doesn’t seem like anyone who’s commented is willing to buy a book without first making careful inquiry, even reading the title before buying.

    It strikes me that reviews here at our own Spec Faith library, then, are vital if we want this service to be a real help to Christian speculative readers. Unless it’s a book some trusted person has recommended or one by a trusted author, it seems few people are going to chance buying the book.

    Then I wonder, what can Spec Faith do to become a trusted source of recommendations?


  15. I voted for library, online stores, and free from publishers. Yes, this has changed over the last five years. A few years ago, even just two years, I’d have ‘brick & mortar’ instead of ‘free from publishers’.

    My M.O. used to be: borrow from the library. If I love it, buy it in print via Amazon. Then I got a Nook. M.O stayed essentially the same, but some books got bought in print and some in ebook. I would go to the brick & mortar store–namely Borders–whenever I had  a coupon and browse. But our Borders closed, and the B&N is in a location that’s a nightmare to get in and out of. As is the Books-a-Million. No indie stores close by. I still visit B&N and BaM now and then to shop the clearance sections. If their prices and selection came even close to Amazon, I’d buy more stuff in-store. But their floors are covered with racks of knick-knacks and toys….

    So now, I do buy a lot of ebooks from B&N and print from Amazon, but I try to get books from the library whenever I’m not sure it’s something I’m going to like. 

    The ‘free from publishers’ thing came about when I was invited to join Amazon Vine. It’s been very cool, but requires real reviews, even when  I end up not liking a book. Pretty worth it, though ;).


  16. Marion says:

    I usually get my books from Amazon and a couple of used bookstores here in San Antonio.
    However, I just did something different for the current book I’m reading.  I decided to get a list of best-selling novelists in the last 50 years and I picked one author at random. ( I must admit I have always been curious why novelists like a Harold Robbins, James Patterson, Danielle Steel….etc been able to sell so many books over the years.)
    So I chose Sidney Sheldon’s Other Side of Midnight.  I will write a review on my blog when I’m finished.  I’m halfway done and it’s definitely a page-turner and I can see some the elements that made him one of the world’s best-selling authors.
    I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and I surely have with the Other Side of Midnight.  LOL!

  17. SWC says:

    Right now I’m getting most of my reading from the library because I’m unemployed. I confess, when I’m gainfully employed, online retailers would replace the library. I still prefer to buy books at the brick and mortar stores when I can, because I want to do my little part to contribute to keeping bookstores open. When possible I buy at independents, but most of those have gone out of business in my town. 🙁

    I do a lot of reading on my nook & iPad as well, but almost exclusively fiction. What I’ve discovered is that, while e-readers are great in a lot of ways, I’m still not satisfied with the way they allow you to take notes. So if I have a non-fiction book I want to read and annotate, I always buy a hard copy. In addition, if I have a book I know I’m going to want to loan out, I buy a hard copy.

    A lot of book selection occurs online these days for me. I hear about books on blogs I read or on Twitter. Authors who have interacted with me on LiveJournal, Facebook, and Twitter get high preference. Authors who mention other authors they like also influence me. In addition I’m an aspirant to publication myself, and when I meet people at writing conferences, I like to buy their books to support their careers. I have an entire shelf of books which I can claim some level of personal acquaintance with the authors. 🙂 

  18. […] The results are in and by a nose, online outlets beat out the library. (You can see all the results here). At the same time, I ran a poll on my personal site, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, asking […]

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