The costs of book blogging: AKA Why I’m going on a book buying diet in 2014

This post is basically the result of some free time and my geeky love for Excel.  It ended up longer than intended so I’ve tried to highlight the important bits in bold text and graphs/images, so I’ll try not to be offended if you skim the rest!

There has been a lot of great posts on the costs of book blogging, but what I’ve been thinking about a lot recently are my costs from the reading point of view.  As a small blogger, I don’t have a huge amount of costs from the blogging side, but my reading costs have definitely gone UP since I started blogging.  Those who say book bloggers are just in it for the free books should take a look at my (rapidly increasing!) book buying habits!  Although I do read review copies now, I generally buy a lot more books.  I know about more upcoming releases, leading to the temptation to pre-order them.  My TBR list grows exponentially, and so books I’d never have glanced at before are now bought because ‘it’s on my list’.  The fear of posting an empty haul post also encourages me to pick up books I’d normally resist.

Out of curiosity more than anything, I looked through my stats for 2013, to figure out:

  • How many books I obtained in 2013, and where those books came from, separated into three categories
    • Review copies, from publishers, authors, NetGalley, Edelweiss & RealReaders
    • Free books, including kindle freebies, gifts, library books & borrowed books
    • Books I personally purchased, whether physical copies or ebooks
  • How many books I read in 2013, and where those came from, separated into the same categories
  • The difference between the two

books obtained in 2013
As you can see, the majority of the books I obtained came from free sources (predominantly the library), followed by review copies, with purchased books making up only 21%. From a spending point of view, that seems pretty good right?

Well, yeah, except….what about the books I actually read? Where did they come from?

books read in 2013Most of the books I read were review copies, followed closely by free books. I read more review copies than free books even though I gained more free books in the first place.   That’s okay though, surely I must have just taken a few library books back, or hoarded a few freebies, right? Books I’d personally bought made up 17% of my reading choices.  The difference between that and the percentage of bought books obtained doesn’t seem very big….

Except of course, I gained an awful lot more books than I read, so when you compare the individual numbers, the pattern doesn’t look so good!

books obtained v read in 2013
Looking at this graph, it’s clear I read most of my review books (and I’m working on the rest but that’s a separate issue!), but that I didn’t get anywhere near 100% out of my free books or my purchased books.  The unread free books are, admittedly, frustrating, but what’s really important to me are the unread purchased books, because obviously I’ve paid for them!  It’s clear that I’m obtaining more books than I can handle, but how do the numbers actually work out?

£500 a year on books?!

In 2013, I purchased 58 books, and I read 22 books from my shelves.  Assuming that the 22 I read were from books purchased throughout 2013 (rather than books bought in previous years), that means I bought 36 books which went unread.  Now I’m usually of the opinion that you can never have too many books – they’re a bit like stamps (but better) because you can collect them as well as read them.  However, I clearly have more books than I can keep up with, and if those books continue to sit on my shelf unread, they’re effectively wasted money.

According to a BBC article, the average cost of a book is now £7.70.  Although a lot of my books come from places like The Works or second hand book shops, enough of them are special editions or new releases for me to assume the real cost isn’t far below this.  Having an estimated cost makes the maths easier than adding up where each book was purchased from, so for the sake of laziness I’m using the £7.70 figure.  That means I spent approximately £460 on books in 2013.  The books I bought but didn’t read represent £277.20…just sitting on my shelves.  As someone who is currently unemployed, and is trying to save for a Masters, £500 on books a year just isn’t practical, and for more than half of that cost to be wasted is insane!

An experiment for 2014

So, to try and address my horrible book buying problem, and to deal with my expanding TBR shelf, I’ve decided that in 2014 I’m going to go on a book buying diet.  I know I’d never cope with a full on ban so this seemed like a good compromise!  I’m planning to:

  • Buy less books overall
  • Read the books I do buy!
  • Focus on using the library
  • ‘Shop’ my shelves
  • Report in about the books I do buy, to see how much I’ve spent at the end of the year

Throughout 2014, I’ll be reporting in about exactly how much I spent on books as part of my monthly round-ups, to keep myself accountable (and hopefully on track!).  Feel free to share any tips you might have for me!

I won’t be relying on lots of review books, because I’m not allowing myself to request much (if at all) on NetGalley until I’ve improved my approval to review percentage.   I’ll just be relying on good old fashioned libraries and my personal budget, to experiment and hopefully prove that book blogging doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby (from a reading point of view anyway!).