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?