Jim West has posted some wise cautions on acquiring books.
I confess, I’m as guilty as the next guy (just ask my wife). Still, here are some of some questions I try to ask myself when wanting to buy books.
- Do my neighbors have enough food?
- Is it available in the library here? (Surprisingly, the answer to this is usually “yes.”)
- Is it central to my work? i.e. I like to highlight books; read them once carefully, then reference them often, reading certain sections repeatedly.
- Do I really only need one of the chapters for careful highlighting? (photocopy that chapter only)
- Is it less than $30 (Sorry, Brill.) I’ll make a special exception to $40 if it is unavailable here and central to my work (Used books from Addall.com save me here). (Luckily, I bought most of my key reference books and commentaries when I had a real job and could afford them.)
- Is it this an important book that I want to be able to pull off my shelf and hand to someone who asks me a certain question (usually non-academic category)?
- Is there a friend or family member coming from the states, and do they have room in their suitcase for this book ? (Otherwise add $10-15 shipping for each book which may or may not arrive. A friend mailed me a book in 2005 which arrived 2 years later.) This is a nice curb to my book buying appetite.
- Am I willing to leave this book behind if I have to suddenly move?
I’ll save everything else for a future trip to a US or European library.