Sunday, June 18, 2006

On the Cheap

Yesterday, at the Powerbooks warehouse sale, I came upon a startling realization: I am, in all likelihood, the greatest cheapskate on the face of the earth when it comes to buying new books.

Now, I'm perfectly aware that most of us try to save money on reading material. We borrow comics or paperbacks from friends, we join neighborhood book exchanges, and we download "free" stuff from file-sharing applications. All that, however, doesn't automatically mean that we're total misers when it comes to books; it merely concludes that we like to read.

I'm a cheapskate, plain and simple. Whenever money finds its way into my wallet, I try to make sure that it stays there. And given the prices of quality reading material in the local bookstores, I'm more likely to browse their shelves, shudder at the numbers printed on the price tags, and leave empty-handed.

On the other hand, hanging around the air-conditioned confines of pristine shelves and hermetically-sealed displays isn't anything new. So I take things one step further: I scour warehouses, garage sales and corner stores -- all places where unsold stock and unwanted hardcovers go to die -- and still leave without finding anything of interest. I have a philosophy that dictates that I am only obligated to buy a book if I feel that it's worth keeping for the long term... and it relegates my buying habits to about one paperback every couple of months.

You want more evidence? My room was derisively called "the black hole" once, if only because I have a habit of borrowing books and then losing them in the harrowing morass that serves as my personal quarters. People literally lend me reading material and fully expect to never see them again. I strongly suspect that this is because I make sure to keep every favorite bit of reading material I find, borrowed or otherwise.

This has resulted in a couple of interesting aspects to my life: One, long-standing friends know to buy me books as opposed to lending them. Two, anyone who actually manages to borrow reading material from me should realize exactly what a rarity they hold in their hands.

Another less obvious aspect, on the other hand, cuts far closer to the bone. I've long assumed that writers and readers were one and the same: If we read, then we write. If we write, then we read. But if that were the case, then where would a miserly reader fit in?

I suppose that that would explain why I only put out a new piece of fiction about once a month. It's entirely possible that I could be just as stingy when it comes to storytelling.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I was walking around a warehouse sale yesterday, studying the titles and cover images of a thousand low-priced books while a lovely female friend piled more and more softcovers into my basket. She openly wondered why I wasn't really buying anything, and in the back of my mind, I suppose that I was wondering the same thing.

In the end, however, I did pick up a few old paperbacks that seemed interesting. They were selling for about PhP50.00 (approximately US$1.00) each, although all three were disjointed parts of a single out-of-print series. (I had seen them around the bookstores some years ago, but held off on buying them because, well... you know.)

The good news, however, is that it's altogether possible that I'll end up with more reading time nowadays, seeing that I've finally resigned from my five-year job. That means, of course, that I'll probably eventually cure myself of the horrible, terrible, miserly habit.

Then again, considering that I'm now unemployed, I'll have to keep a close watch on my personal savings. And that, of course, means that I might just have to stay a cheapskate for just a few more months.

After all, if money somehow manages to find its way into my wallet while I'm out of a job, I should probably find a way to make sure that it stays there, right?


gumdrop said...

just curious sean, why'd you resign and what are your plans? and also, where is that powerbooks warehouse sale? :)

Sean said...

Gumdrop: I originally planned my resignation for September last year, but a company merger got in the way at the time. My official reason involves a shift in managerial tendencies: As opposed to having to kowtow to clients who constantly ask for things they don't understand, I'd rather be the one offering them products and having them march to the beat of the marketing drum.

Unfortunately, however, the Powerbooks sale ended yesterday. But they have these from time to time, in their warehouse at 25 Brixton St. Capitol Subdivision, Pasig City.

Gem :3 said...

ergh, Sean.
does this mean I should be regretting lending you stuff??

Sean said...

Gem: Whoops. Should have kept my mouth shut on that one. :)

For the record, however, I return stuff a lot more often nowadays. Or at least, fairly often. :)

kat said...

I have friends who go with me through my book hunts, but they're not as "diehard" as I am, if that's a good term to use. With regards to borrowing books... I have the same problem. Though like you, I try to return what I've borrowed more often.

Do you have any usual places that you check out for books? Aside from the usual Booksale of course.

Sean said...

Kat: There's Books for Less, whose branches always seem to resemble libraries. I visit the place wherever I can find it, mainly for the ambiance if not for the books. Filbar's is also fine, but only if you're looking for old magazine issues.

Apart from the mainstream bookstores, however, I find garage sales to be good sources of reading material -- they always have quite a few excess books on sale, and most of those volumes happen to be unavailable in the local bookstores.

Finally, the den or the library room of any upper-class home makes for good reading. Usually, the best part is that the owners will have so many books that they'll be willing to part with a volume or two... ;)

banzai cat said...

Of course I presume the homeowner knows that you're reading in his den, right? I usually get screams and cries of outrage when I do this unannounced. :-D

Sean said...

Banzai Cat: Actually, so far I haven't been caught yet. :)