Wednesday, December 01, 2010


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I read books in phases and clusters. Most recently, it's either been non-stop book reading or nothing at all. When I'm devouring books in LA, that often coincides with positive writing streaks. It's no secret that I find inspiration in books, and at the same time, I often write better when I'm reading well written material. I suppose my brain is a sponge that adheres to the "you are what you eat" school of thought, but in this case, "you write what you read."

Sometimes, the internet gets most of my reading time, which I often compare to fast food reading mainly because my diet is blogs and some media outlets (mostly meta-sites with lots of link dumps). Even the most long-form pieces of journalism on the net clock in at a few thousand words, which is hardly a hearty meal compared to what you can devour when you pick up a book.

When I'm on the road and traveling (especially spending lots of down time in airports), I might be able to knock off a couple of books a week, but because I'm mobile, I'm not writing as much. But the road is also where I pick up new books or discuss books with people I meet along the way. I always write down book recommendations. I don't always act upon those, but that list comes in handy when I'm in search of new material. About once a month, I create a pile and stack four or five books on top of each other on the desk in my office. Those will be the "books of the month" and my reading list. On average, I'll finish three out of the five. I'll lose interest in one very quickly, and the last one is often one of those books that I pick up, put down pick up again, and put down again -- but for some reason -- I don't go back to it because when the new month comes around, I have a new pile of books.

Once a year, I'll create a pile of start-stop books -- books that I started to read and stopped, but I really want to finish. Sometimes, it takes effort to plug through to the end of the book that has been slowing you down. Otherwise,, you have to be an expert skimmer.

Christmas is always a good time of year for me because I'm the recipient of a lot of books along with giftcards to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. My reading pile every January includes a dozen titles, and nothing is a better start to the new year, then delving into a stack of new books.

Nicky has been voraciously reading the last two months -- exclusively on her iPad. The Kindle app is good, but it bothers her eyes, and now she's looking into picking up a real Kindle. I'm not that jazzed about e-books. I've warmed up to them after I realized that e-copies of Lost Vegas were in high demand. I was sorta surprised when e-book sales eclipsed print copies shortly before Thanksgiving. But once Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit -- print sales took a healthy bounce upward and regained the top spot.

I'm a luddite when it comes to books. I want to read a physical copy. I want to turn the pages. I want to have a proper book mark. I want to be able to flip back and forth if I want.

I also get off on buying used books. I'm not a bargain hunter mainly because I don't buy too much stuff. Most of my disposable income goes toward traveling, music/entertainment, and funding my own art. However, I'm an avid book hunter. I'm partial to the smell of mildew from books stashed away in someone's basement. I think that stems from parts of my childhood when my mother was an avid flea market attendee at Yonker's Raceway, so while she browsed for different items, I found myself digging through splintery wooden crates filled with used books for as little as a penny (presumably those books were found in an attic somewhere or inherited from a dead relative).

When I lived in NYC, I used to stop at street vendors and inspect every book in their collection. I've bought a few gems on the street for $5 and $6 over the years. When I was completely broke, I used to spend a full day inside Strand bookstore off Union Square and find a secluded aisle and read books that I was too cheap to buy. When I really got into poker and wanted to improve my game, I devoured different poker and strategy books (with aided my poker education -- for free) at different Barnes & Noble throughout the city.

Late nights, I get a rush hunting for bargains online for less than $2 through Amazon's used book sellers. The big scam involves shipping. Well, not much a scam, but how those sellers really make money is over-charging anywhere from $3 to $4 for shipping and then go the cheap route at the post office and send it media mail. So a $2 book is really $5 plus -- but the only downside is that it might take up to two weeks for the book to arrive, but I don't care too much about that because I'm excited to get any book for under $5. I recently picked up Scandals of '51, a book about the 1951 college basketball point shaving scandals for $1.38. I read the first four chapters and already got my money's worth.

In May of 2010, I became a member of's Prime Shipping club, which offers up their members free two-day shipping for an annual flat fee of $79. My buddy Ryan said that it was the best deal on the interwebs if I devoured books and DVDs as much as he did. I decided to give it a whirl and I definitely made out in that deal by the beginning of the summer. I also found myself shopping for non-book items (like household items such as fly traps and plumbing tape) on Amazon because I got free shipping.

But, maybe I'm not the one who is taking advantage of Amazon? For one, they get discounted shipping from the big boys, so what they would normally charge me is an inflated price to begin with. At the same time, I noticed one slight problem -- the Prime shipping affected the amount of used books that I buy because Amazon offers up new copies of books at super-deep discounts.

For example, I wanted Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, a collection of essays from David Foster Wallace. Used copies were going for like $6. I don't get free shipping on third-party sellers, so that book would cost me around $9. For an extra $1.25, I can get a brand spanking new copy on Amazon (and get it delivered in two days).

Maybe that's the catch? I found myself opting for the upsale on more than one instance. I need to do a better job at tracking those transactions in 2011, because I'd really like to see how much extra money Amazon got out of me over the long run.

But for now, I'm more than satisfied with their Prime service, especially with Christmas three weeks or so away.


  1. John Hartness9:50 AM

    Now the next method in the working of the amazon scam is to get Nicky to sign up as an Amazon affiliate, and buy everything through her link, getting a 4-10% kickback on the purchase. Then you sign up for the affiliate code and get her to buy everything through your link (because they won't pay out for your own purchases), and you get a rebate on everything you both buy through Amazon. Unless you live in NC, who got in a pissing contest with Amazon last year about sales tax and now cancelled all Amazon affiliates in the state.