Monday, November 19, 2012


The ecosystem for the distribution and consumption of books is complicated. Between the library, independent and secondhand bookstores, Amazon and e-books, there is a lot of competition for my patronage. I get most of my reading material from 5 sources:

  1. Referrals from others
  2. The Browser's 5 Books Interviews
  3. The New York Times
  4. Farnam Street
  5. The new arrivals shelf at the library

Once I've decided to buy something, I have a formula for acquiring it. If it's available in the library, I get it there. If it's a new book not yet in the collection, I buy the hardcover at the new bookstore in our neighbourhood and then donate it to the library. If the bookstore doesn't have it, I order it from Amazon, only getting the e-book if the price seems right (Kindle prices are too high right now, in my opinion).

If it's an older book and not available at the library, I'll order the cheapest version from one of the many secondhand sellers on Amazon, and then then donate it to the PTA thrift shop, where you can usually observe several entrepreneurially minded  people scanning titles with their phones to determine if there is a market for them.

That's a pretty virtuous circle, I think, of supporting public goods, local business and advancing technology. Next on my list is Nassim Taleb's new book, which has been on the horizon for a few years (I heard him talk about it with Russ Roberts when we were still in Egypt. His first two books,  Fooled by Randomness and the Black Swan changed the way I think about things, and reviews of the new one in Farnam Street and the Economist suggest that this one will too. The Farnam Street piece links to a WSJ article, which sets out some basic principles from the book. My favourite: "The economy is more like a cat than a washing machine."

It comes out next week. The BG and I popped into the bookstore to order it last Wednesday, after a delightful dinner at the restaurant next door (Butternut squash gnocchi for her, onion soup and duck confit for me) while Worldwide was in DC and the OG was at a school event, and she picked up the latest edition of the Popularity Papers, a series that she can't get enough of lately.

1 comment:

  1. Kindle books are indeed too expensive. I feel like, if they were half the price, I'd buy more than twice as many. At the price they are, I am very reluctant to purchase, and, when I do, I read the whole thing to make sure I get my money's worth - even if I find I'm not really enjoying it that much, and would be better served by buying a different book to read.

    That's not very smart from the perspective of my time investment, but, psychologically, that's where I'm at under the current pricing regime.