Now that the price of a gallon of gas in the US is creeping nearer and nearer to the price of gas in the rest of the world, people are paying more attention to what they spend and how much they drive. I live in New Jersey and work in Manhattan, so I cross two types of driving cultures in my day. In Manhattan, there’s about fourteen bazillion different types of mass transportation I could choose, from subways to trains to cabs to pedi-cab bikes to buses—to helicopters if I’m feeling really frisky. Most people don’t own cars, because it costs as much as the car itself is worth to park that car for a day. Or an hour.
In New Jersey, it’s the land of the big box store and the land of driving pretty much everywhere. I once received some mass email that told me, and no word as to whether this is true or not, at any given moment, no matter where you are in New Jersey, you are never more than 15 miles from a mall. That’s a lot of malls. And a lot of mall hair.
But I have a feeling that the time of shopping as entertainment and driving to a mall to do so is rapidly coming to an end – not that I spend much time shopping as a form of joyful enterprise. There are some things, however, which I will always shop for, and which are not entertainment purchases or miscellaneous items in my budget. Up there with items like “mortgage,” “health care,” “food,” and “more food, oh my God with the EATING,” is an immovable entry: books.
No matter how high the price of gas, by hook or by crook, I will buy me some books. Maybe they will be digital Kindle books, or maybe they will be paper books, but there will be books. It’s not optional.
So what do folks like us do when the price of a gallon of gas is nearly the price of a paperback? Good question. Here are some options:
1. Obvious: the library. If you have a local library, the books are free, cheezy bread, free. Head on over, get yourself a library card, and gorge on the awesomeness.
My local library participates in a rather kickin’ program called ListenNJ, in which patrons can download and check out audio books for free, with a limit of five titles for a 10 day loan period. That’s kick ASS right there.
But what if library wonderment isn’t an option? Coupons and cheaper options ahoy!
2. Obvious, Part Deux: Used Bookstores Every now and again there’s a minor kerfuffle over used bookstores, with some authors loathing them and the lost profit, and some readers who can’t reach for the $9 paperback pricepoint loving every moment of their local used store’s hours of business. I’m personally a big fan of the local used store in my area, because it’s a treasure trove of cover snark, it’s bloody huge, it’s up the road from my favorite pet supply store, and it smells like Used Books, which is about as good as New Car and New Baby smells. So if you like to own, abuse, and drop your books in the bathtub without worrying over lost dollars, used stores rock. And seriously, the cover snark potential is just awesome.
And if you don’t like #1 and #2? Damn you’re picky.
#3: Start haunting your local bookstore’s rewards program. I work near a Borders, so I’ve got a Borders Rewards account, and every now and again I get a coupon for 20% off a purchase, or an opportunity to buy three books from a selected list, and get the fourth free. For my birthday, I received a 25%-off-one-item coupon, and I’d say I get at least a coupon a month, though I don’t necessarily use them all. Borders’ program is free to join.
Barnes and Noble also has a membership club, which offers bigger discounts on every purchase, but costs $25 to join. With their membership you get 40% hardcover bestsellers, 20% adult hardcovers (rwor!), and 10% off almost everything else. There are also member email newsletters with additional discounts. Personally, I don’t buy enough hardcover books that this is worth it for me, but I did learn something clever. A book club I know of signed up for a membership by pooling $5 a person. All you need to access the membership discount is the phone number of the member who joined. So if you round up a posse and join together, you can all access the membership benefits via one phone number.
Rounding out the big box book survey, Books a Million also has a discount club, which, for $15.00 a year, offers an additional 10% off every purchase.
If big box stores are not to your liking, and you prefer your local independent, try talking to the owner or manager about your book habit and see if there’s a discount they would be willing to offer you in exchange for goods or services you might provide. That might be a longshot since everyone is tightening the fiscal belt these days, but you never know if they might need some graphic design work, a newsletter template, some help at busy times, or what.
And what about publishers? Do they feel your pain? Oh, yes. Your inability to buy as much as you like is their pain, too. So keep your eye out for #4: Publisher Specials From package deals like Harlequin’s current buy three get the fourth free deal, to the one that caught my eye at my last trip to the store: Kensington’s Zebra Debut program.
You might have noticed the books on the shelf – they retail for $3.99 or $4.99, and are marketed as “tomorrow’s bestsellers at yesterday’s prices.” Yeah, if my local gas station had a sign like that, the line would stretch into Pennsylvania.
I asked Kate Duffy all kinds of nosy questions, and she said that the program “was the brainchild of the publisher, Laurie Parkin. It was her idea of a possible way to build a bigger audience for a brand new author.It has been very successful. Very. Sally MacKenzie was our first debut author to hit the USA Today list with her subsequent “Naked” titles. But for every debut author, initial print orders were increased beyond what we used to experience.”
Historicals, Duffy says, in particular are doing well in that program, and the line is exclusively for authors who have never before been published. Their first book is priced at $3.99, and the second novel is priced at $4.99.
And what’s the very, very best kind of book? See #1 – the free book. Duffy has offered up the six June, July and August releases for the Zebra Debut program, including Dark and Dangerous by Jeanne Adams, Lord Scandal by Kalen Hughes (which I reviewed and gave away copies of in May), Her One Desire by Kimberly Killion, To Wed a Highlander by Michele Sinclair, Lost in You by Alix Rickloff, and A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure by Victoria Dahl.
I’ll do a random comment drawing here to select six lucky folks who will each receive a free book – woo! So drop a comment, and if you’re so inclined, share your secret for feeding your need to read when you’re short on green (or red or blue or whatever color your currency is). Comments are open for 24 hours starting now.