Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Green Life With A Reading Addiction

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches

When I first became more environmentally conscious and decided to make major changes in my spending, both by spending less and by committing to spending on quality local, fairtrade etc, it occurred to me the one worry I had was my addiction to books - the last time I looked there were no fairtrade books available yet! For a few weeks I worried and fretted and then little by little I began to see there were many ways my new commitments could be adhered to, even with a pretty significant reading addiction.

The first thing I did was stop purchasing my daily papers. To ease into the transition, I allowed myself to purchase a weekend paper but the rest of the week I read the papers online! I have to say, the transition was incredibly easy - I so enjoyed my weekend treat and found incredible resources online through blogs, websites and forums that in many ways opened up my world all the more!

Next I dusted off the old library card, which was used about once a month previously and I committed to going to the library each week to look for new books I'd like to read. My local library, sadly, doesn't have a very large selection however I have found some gems there, read some books I would not normally have read and learned to wait patiently for others :)

I then did an inventory of all the books I had, and shame on me found quiet a few I'd never read. I kept the books that were favourites, those which would be needed for smallholding and donated the rest to charities. Boy did that feel good :)

Finally, I found out about local book resources, like a free book cycle program in my city, book swaps online, second hand book sellers and charity shops.

Now, if I come across a book I'd really like to read instead of jumping to buy it I

  • really examine if this is the right time to read the book - a bit of a need vs want check, although yes ultimately reading is a want (only just!)
  • check my local library
  • have a look at local charity shops
  • ask friends and people in my reading groups
  • check online groups or stores for second hand sales that are within my reading budget
  • put the books on my "wish list" for Birthdays and Christmas
  • accept it may take a month or even a year to find a book, but accept it and enjoy the wait :)

And what am I currently reading? Animal, Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and I'm re-reading Fall On Your Knees by Anne Marie McDonald.

How do you cope with the desire to learn and read with the frugal, simple and green life? What are you currently reading?


Anonymous said...

I try and source my books from the library, friends or second hand and haven't had any issues finding novels and quite a few craft books. I'm not sure if you are allowed to do this but if I see a crochet pattern etc that I like I scan it into my computer and take the book back to the library.

Unfortunately I've not found many eco/permaculture/smallholding books, so have been given these as presents or have treated myself to them.I guess this is becasue the people who buy these books in the first place tend to hold on to them!

karen said...

Like you I also dusted off my library card and have been using it for books, dvds and magazines. We can search our library catalog online and if they do not have what you want you can expand the search to the entire state. If the book is available, you can pick it up and return it to your local library. They send you an email when it is ready for pickup. Such a great service!
Also at the grocery store they have 4 bookshelves filled with books that are donated for charity and cost no more than a dollar. I read them and then donate them back so the charity wins twice. I could not live without my reading! Karen from CT

Kate said...

I mostly get my reading material through the library. If my library doesn't have a book I want to read, I either request an inter-library loan, or ask them to purchase it (mostly necessary for very recently published books). I've very rarely failed to get a book I wanted with these methods.

I will also buy a book if I feel it's an important reference for a topic related to sustainability. So I've recently gotten books on humanure, wild foraging, growing herbs, curing meats, and baking with sourdough starters. I try to find books I want to purchase used, if only to save myself a little money. I usually only take this step after having screened each title by reading it for free from the library, so I don't spend money on a speculative purchase - I *know* the book is a good one before I buy. And I sell my unwanted books to the same online bookseller I buy from, so I both give and take from the recycled book stream.

Here in the States, there are a couple of publishers (New Society and Blackwell) who have "greened" their publication process by using recycled paper, contributing to reforestation programs, using less toxic processes in printing and binding, etc. So I do keep an eye on what they publish, since I would favor a title on a topic that interests me from such a business.

Katja said...

That reading is a want and not a need may be debatable ;-)
The problem I'm facing is that I mostly read English books (except when the author is German). But unfortunately English books are hard to come by here in Germany. Libraries often have only a few classics in English, and you can read “The picture of Dorian Grey” only that often....
I would like to support my local book seller, but I really prefer buying used books because it saves resources and money. So I often turn to Amazon marketplace where you can get a lot of books for a few cents. Even if I add the fee for postage and packaging to it, the books are still pretty cheap.
I have recently started to work my way through Georgette Heyers Regency novels (there are about 50 I believe), right now I'm reading “The Nonesuch”. A great read, very witty and engaging...

Aydan said...

Katja, I really enjoy Georgette Heyer too! The Nonesuch is really good.

I get some books from my municipality's library, or my uni's library. Some I buy used off of the Internet, or from thrift stores. I'll buy a book new, though, when I especially want to support the author, and I often feel a little guilty about buying so many books used. After all, I think artists deserve to be paid for their work. But the pulp industry doesn't deserve to get paid to trash the planet.

Right now I'm reading How to Suppress Women's Writing by Joanna Russ. It's about the ways in which contributions to literature and other art, made by women, are subtly and not-so-subtly discounted. I'm thankful that I haven't encountered most of these (I'm a literature student), and that times seem to have changed at least somewhat since she wrote the book (1983).

Mia @ agoodhuman said...

I LOVE both those books you are currently reading. Two of my favourites.

I've taken much the same path as you. If I want a certain book, I'll check the library first then paperbackswap and then Amazon which has quite the collection of secondhand books.

I'm also passing on most of the books I've finished, rather than holding onto them. I agree with Katja, for me reading is a need not a want :)

SusanG said...

Two words: Project Gutenberg.

Tree Huggin Momma said...

I keep saying I am going to make weekly library trips (I could go on my lunch) but its too cold in the winter and I have a glut of books to get through at home. Good for your for reading from the library and for reading used books. I have to sort through my used books and take them to a used book store, I plan to take store credit only and basically exchange books I will never read again for books I want to read from the store. I also exchange books with a dear friend, when either of us finishes a good read we pass it on to the other and when they are done with it they pass it on to someone else still.

melissa sews said...

I, too, purchase the bulk of our books at thrift stores for $0.25 - $3.00. And we take advantage of our local library from time to time. If there's a book I'm feigning for, and I know it's one I'll reference often (i.e cookbooks, gardening, farming, sewing books) I do go ahead and purchase it on and utilize their super saver (free) shipping.

gaias daughter said...

I live in an area where interest in books runs the gamut from westerns to romance :-) I've given up on the library and used book stores -- they don't have what I'm looking for! So I order online, used books when I find them, and buy with a clear conscience. I am building my own library and no regrets!

greeblygreebly said...

The library, I don't know how we would live without it. As a family of avid readers we check out hundreds of dollars worth of materials a month. I always feel a bit like I am getting away with something when I walk out of there with a huge bag of books :)

Bellen said...

When I lived in CT, like Karen, I used the inter-library loan system extensively - to the point the librarian checked what I was reading to see if they should carry it.

Now, in FL, it is much harder due to drastically cut budgets. Libraries are county wide and even getting books between libraries may require a week's wait where it used to be overnight. However, we do have reciprocal borrowing at counties north and south of us. Both offer much more in the gardening, frugal, sustainable lifestyle books I'm looking for. My husband uses the Electronic Library for AudioBooks and I've found several on line, both thru the library system.

The only books we buy are non-fiction and they are rare. I either take notes, copy a page, or find the reference on line. When we do decide a book is worth buying, we find it used locally or thru Powell's, Edward Hamilton or Amazon.

I currently read 4 newspapers on line daily, check about 100 blogs weekly, search for info, recipes, patterns, etc. daily. Lion Brand has a great website for free knitting and crocheted patterns.

cpcable said...

Ah, yes, this is an issue I've recently thought about as well. I am very fortunate in that I live in a fairly progressive University town, so not only do I have access to both my city's library and the University library, both of them have wonderful selections of books on permaculture, homesteading, sustainability, etc. I've rarely had to look elsewhere.

I will admit that I had a nasty habit for awhile. It's just so easy to click on all the books I want and then they show up at my door! But, I've stopped that completely and what I don't find at the library I just keep a look out for at Goodwill, used book stores, and (when all else fails) our local bookseller.

Mary said...

I've been lurking for a while now, and enjoy all of the thoughts and ideas shared here so much. I'm also a huge book addict (and an academic, which exacerbates the problem!). If libraries and swapping with friends don't work, I usually check Better World Books first ( There's lots of great used stuff, they do carbon offsets, and support social programs as well. In my mind, it's much more palatable than amazon or big box bookstores.

Damn The Broccoli said...

I am seriously considering looking for an IPad second hand when they have been around a while.

My girlfriend and I are both quite voracious readers, although she is far moreso that me.

We are lucky to have a decent library network locally so we can find a lot, and there are plenty of secondhand shops. But buying books normally has the secondary issue of buying something to store them and in this day and age that means a piece of furniture chock full of formaldehydes unless you can afford a decent solid wood bookshelf.

Plus there is the issue of not paying the author the royalties on their work which seems a little unfair.

The ipad gets around all the wastage issues and shelving but brings it's own set of problems, namely the electricity needed to run it and the overall footprint of making it.

Trying to maintain a lifestyle you are happy living within the boundaries of not harming the planet is incredibly complex these days.

The only true answer to the environmental issue is to return to a word without books being available to the common man and the huge degree of illiteracy that brought with it, but that doesn't seem a very happy one either.


Rosa said...

Ebooks also have issues with obsoletion - look how fast cell phones and computers become "too old to use".

We use the library a lot, and we donate time and money to the library as well. Our library has a great acquisitions department and will often order things people ask for. Plus there's an online reserve system and they belong to an ebrary where you can download audio books.

We also have an informal circle of friends that share books - if I'm thinking I really need a new hardback right when it comes out, I can ask around and generally someone else already bought it or was planning to, so I wait til they're done reading it. If nobody else has bought it but other people want to read it, I'll be the one to buy and share.

Cindy in Maine said...

I get the vast majority of my books through library book sales. After I've read them I pass them on to famiy members and friends. My local library's sales always have a great selection of recent fiction, classics, and reference books.

J. said...

Happily, I have a local library branch that can order anything that I want from any other branch in the system, and this has helped a lot. Sometimes I borrow from friends, but many of the people I know are not interested in the same type of books that I am, which makes this a bit more difficult. I also use the library to review books that I might want to buy later to see if they're worth it.

While this isn't necessarily green, I get desk copies of books for free from publishers. Since I teach in an area that's of interest to me, I get a fair number of books that I like to read this way.

Otherwise, most of my books come from the local thrift store's bookstore, which is right down the street from me. It's not super-cheap, but the prices ($.99 to $4.99) are still pretty good, and they have a lot of selection. While I'm loathing moving them, I do generally believe that it's okay to buy books I know I'll enjoy, and that I'll read again. I figure I can walk to the store, support a charity, and not have a library book transported across the city (plus, I get to read at my leisure). I also have no issues buying reference books: cooking, organic gardening, skills, and so on, so I'm not dependent on anyone else and have the materials if I need them. In some ways I'm seeing this as setting up my own library - books that I need and am interested in, and also books that could be very useful to other people as well.

Amanda said...

We received a Kindle as a Christmas gift so I've been getting the occasional new release book that way to save both money and space. I also just signed up for as a way to both declutter and gain new reading material.

Currently, I'm reading When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.

This Thrifted Life said...

Used books all the way. I love the library and use it quite often, but ours also has a small selection. When I can't borrow what I want to read from the library or friends/family, I hit up thrift stores, local used bookstores, and I pretty much always find the book I'm looking for at a great price.

notesfromthefrugaltrenches said...

Thank you all for sharing your wonderful resources and ideas! As always there is such a wealth of information in the comments!

notesfromthefrugaltrenches said...

SusanG - project Gutenberg may change my life, thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Soil And Health Library
"This website provides a large number of free e-books available for immediate download. The books are mainly about holistic agriculture, holistic health and self-sufficient homestead living. There are secondary collections about social criticism and transformational psychology. No fees are collected for this service."

Rachel B. said...

I stopped buying new books. A few weeks ago I purchased some books on for about $2 a book. Not bad. But every year my township hold an art festival where they have a fantasic book wagon. Three paperbacks for $1! I also have an account at my local used bookstore I need to start going there again. My library check outs have sky rocketed. All the public libraries in my county are linked so i can get a book out of any of them and pick it up at my local library. My post office even has a small lending library since the nearest library is 10 minutes away and it's not a very good one. I would love to just read Mother New Earths online but there's something about the magazines I love and I find their website had to navigate.

James said...

Andrea said...

Currently reading "Light Force" by Brother Andrea.

Cope by going to the public library for books I want to read - in my city you can request books to be sent to your library- eventually you usually get what you want!

Diane said...

The library is my best friend. If my local library doesn't have it I use inter library loan and one of the other libraries in the same system will send it to mine. If I need to purchase a book for homeschool purposes I usually purchase used through amazon or homeschool library builder.

Brenda said...

Fortunately I work at a library. I always have something checked out and I often peruse the sale shelves of discarded and donated books that are not added to the collection.

amandab said...

I am reading a LOT of blogs at the moment, but I am hitting my library big time. I've decided to not buy magazines any more, I can get most of the ones I am most interested in at the library, even if I have to wait until the following month to be able to take them home. If an article, recipe or craft idea is of particular interest I make a scan of that page. Don't know how legal that is!
Our libraries (I am in Australia) allow you to search the catalogue of other libraries and you can borrow from them also, free of charge (unless they are a university library in which case a small fee is charged), is this not possible everywhere? It was a great help when I was doing a challenge to read my way around the world.

Looby said...

I love the library, it's my first port of call for any book that catches my attention.
Between interlibrary loan and the university library I don't think there is anything I haven't been able to get in recent years.

I do occasionally buy a book, usually a craft book, if I think I will use it enough; my preference is book depository for purchases, but as I have a "one in, one out" policy I limit myself quite well.

The hardest thing for me is that my favourite place to read is the bath and I can't bring myself to do that with library books, so I only get to do that if I get a book as a gift, or with one of my small collection of classics.

Deb G said...

Library mostly. I buy a few new books from my local independently owned bookstore (which also sells used books) - I want them to stay in business. :)

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you about reading your newspapers online. Subscriptions are critical to keeping a newspaper viable. When a newspaper has to depend ONLY on advertising and not subscriptions, its editorial integrity can easily become compromised. Subscriptions pay the salaries for independent journalists. A newspaper can thumb its nose at advertisers and do any journalism it wants if it has enough subscribers.

It's a freedom of speech issue. Freedom isn't free.

karen said...

Anon-thank you for speaking up on this issue! My husband is a photo journalist for the paper in our area. It has slowly been eroded by corporate greed and now the economy. If you want to know what the real news is you need to read the paper. TV news only shows you what "they" think you need to see. Reading online is ok for papers out of your area but please don't cancel your local paper. Newspapers our our voice and they work for us, the people, who deserve to know the truth of what is going on.
Karen from CT

Kate said...

I'm addicted to books. I'm an academic so books are part of my trade and I grew up in a family that hoarded nothing except books. There are books crammed onto shelves in every room (except the bedroom!) in our tiny home. In my defense, I currently office primarily from home so I have all of my work/teaching/etc books at the house as well.

Books are one of the few things I can't bring myself not to buy. Clothes, no problem, food - grow our own and buy local.... but books. Sigh. No relief in sight. I have learned of the glories of the library, but the problem is that I have to take them back (see book hoarding reference). I did make a decision last year, however, that I would try to shop primarily at local, used bookstores and the annual HUGE library sale here in OKC. I've been pretty successful but I slip up anytime I venture into a megabox book store, lurred in by the bright colors and the prospect of being the first person to ever crack a the spine of a book.

I will say I was gifted an electronic reader for Christmas from my grandparents and I think this might partially stem the addiction. Books are 1. cheaper, 2. I don't have to have them in the house and 3. I can charge it in my car while I'm traveling to work. Since I travel a lot for work it's also nice not having to pack books.

I believe everyone is allowed some space in their lives for the things they truly love and if at the end of the day I buy a book, I don't feel guilt about it because I can sit down with a glass of wine, my knitting, and escape into a world created on paper (or a screen).

Jess @OpenlyBalanced said...

Another book addict here! I have a couple steps for keeping my book purchases to a minimum. Like most, the first stop is the library. Second is Freecycle/Craigslist/book shares, etc. If I can't find it there, I check used book stores locally or look for online used. I also have a Kindle, but a secondary priority of mine is free or cheap books, so I usually only buy a Kindle version if I would really benefit from being able to make electronic notes or if I can't find it anywhere else.

I just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last night - what a great book!

Cate said...

Anonymous and Karen - I know my local paper offers an online subscription for readers who would prefer to read it online, so that's something to think about if your area paper offers it.

I also get most of my reading material from the library. If I don't like a book, I can return it, and I don't feel bad about having spent money for it. I also use a lot, and if I really, really want a book, I'll buy it or put it on my holiday wishlist. However, I do think it's important to buy books new once in a while. The publishing industry (not to mention the authors!) needs support to be able to survive.