Sage advice on book buying

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.

  1. Do my neighbors have enough food?
  2. Is it available in the library here? (Surprisingly, the answer to this is usually “yes.”)
  3. 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.
  4. Do I really only need one of the chapters for careful highlighting? (photocopy that chapter only)
  5. 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.)
  6. 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)?
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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