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Bargain Books Aren’t Always A Bargain November 5, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Travel & Leisure, Writing & Writers.

Sometimes books in the bargain bin are no bargain.

They landed there for good reason, not being worth the paper they’re printed on or the time it takes us to slog through them.

They may contain fascinating stories, poorly told.  Or peculiar stories filled with incomprehensible poetic prose.

While rummaging through my parents’ house this summer, I picked up a book, Murder Most Scottish.  The title caught my eye.   An anthology of 19 short stories and a novel, introduced as follows:

Wikipedia ~ Bookplate (in Public Domain)

* Murder for political advantage.  Murder for love.  Murder for profit.  Scotland can claim them all as part of its colorful history.

* The murderers on parade in these stories constitute a veritable rogues’ gallery, driven by motives as different as lust, greed, patriotism, maternal instinct, revenge, financial desperation, and jealousy.  Their methods involve a number of imaginative variations . . . 

I read all twenty tales and recommend none whole-heartedly, except perhaps The Killing Game by Bill Knox.  I enjoyed traipsing through the Highlands with Chief Detective Inspector Colin Thane as he unraveled a tale of Cold War espionage.

Each of them offered something of interest: unique twists, unexpected turns, unlikely victims, unsuspected perpetrators.

But, on the whole, the return on investment was marginal, at best.

Anyone intrigued by these tales of intrigue can get a copy for $0.13 (yes, 13 cents) plus $3.99 S&H from any number of sellers on Amazon.

Or you can have my copy for FREE . . . come and get it!  😉

Aah . . . that’s better!

Are you a member of the Clean (Book)Plate Club?  Do you feel compelled to finish a book once started?  Or do you shove tasteless literary morsels aside and reach for something more appealing to your palate?

Related post: WP Daily Prompt ~Bookworm


1. ericjbaker - November 5, 2012

As a book rummage sale junkie, I have paid 25 cents for scores of that left me feeling hosed. I usually know by page 3 if I made a mistake.

The good ones make it worthwhile, though.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

They do! Especially if we are able to put the “mistakes” down and turn our attention to another “better use of our time.”

2. sweetdaysundertheoaks - November 5, 2012

Hmmm. I might come and get it! In the past I felt compelled to finish a book but I am a big girl now and I can say no and life is short so I move on when a book doesn’t do it for me.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

If you want me to hold it until you and CH come down this winter, I will. Just say the word.

One thing I didn’t like about the tome was its immense HEFT. It weighs a ton which makes for awkward reading. It weighs more than the textbooks we used in law school.

Life you, I used to finish any book I started. Now I move on. If this had been 20 stories by the same author, I would have abandoned it long before page 543. 😉

sweetdaysundertheoaks - November 5, 2012

page 543? Hefty. Don’t save it for me! Enjoy your Monday Nancy and give Tigger a scritch and tell BFF hello for us!

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, Pix! Will do. BFF just planted our Lemon tree in the courtyard ~ it’s been sitting out there in a pot waiting for a good planting day. Maybe when you get down here, I’ll have some Meyer Lemons to share! 😀

3. ryoko861 - November 5, 2012

Same here, if a book isn’t holding my interest I’m able to just put it away.
I bought a book at the dollar store once. It was written by a star from Star Trek! Star Trek! And his book ended up in the dollar store! I bought it and read it. I thought it was good. As did someone else who felt it worthy to be published. How do these books end up getting published if they’re that bad? Wouldn’t it be in the eye of the beholder whether it was good or not? Who deems a book bad?

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Why are “bad books” published by “good publishers”? Often, the publisher believes there will be more of a demand for a niche book than there is ~ that’s probably what happened with the Star Trek book you snapped up.

Brick and Mortar bookstores only have so much space. If a book’s not selling, it’s discounted. It it still isn’t selling, off it goes to the Dollar Store.

You’re absolutely right ~ the worth of a book is measured by the value imparted to its readers. What has great value for you may have none for me. Each of us needs to decide, on a book by book basis, which to read and which to set aside ~ measuring our investment not only in $’s but in our time.

ryoko861 - November 5, 2012

That sums it up! How many people had to read “50 Shades of Grey” and hated it? How many loved it? I didn’t read it. I won’t read a book either based on the fact that everyone else is.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Same here, Irene. Before diving into a “bestseller,” I check out reviews on Amazon ~ reading a few 1-star reviews, a few 2-star reviews . . . all the way up to 5-stars.

If the 1-star reviews are complaining about my pet peeves, and the 5-star reviews are raving about things I view as “irrelevant,” I take a pass.

I didn’t read 50 Shades of Grey. I expect I was more persuaded by the 1-star reviews than the 5-star reviews.

4. Tori Nelson - November 5, 2012

I ALWAYS finish a book. It’s habit. Sometimes my husband will tell me I’m “furiously reading” or “about to set a book on fire with my eyes”. I tell him, sometimes, I AM furious. I’m only a fifth of the way through an awful, awful, boring, awful book. I’m so cheap that I can’t resist the bargain bin, but from all my little purchases I’ve only read two books that were worth the $2.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

If it’s “an awful, awful, boring, awful book” . . . why don’t you set it aside? What compels you to keep turning pages?

I picked up “The Complete Novels of Jane Austen” for a great price. It’s a wonderul book filled with favorite passages and characters and asides and veiled criticisms, etc. But it is no better than a paperweight because of its great HEFT.

It is a great B~I~G book and quite hard to handle . . . with 1103 pages between its covers. On a per word basis, it was a bargain. On a per word actually read, it was not. 🙄

5. Andra Watkins - November 5, 2012

Nancy, I used to finish every book I started, no matter how awful it was. Now, I simply can’t do it. In writing books, I’ve found that my reading has become much more persnickety. I was accepted into a writing retreat in CO back in September, and the feedback on my current book was excellent. BUT, it is hard to hear that things need to happen quicker in my book, then get recommendations from those professionals on what to read as examples, only to pick those books up and NOTHING HAPPENS FOR 50 PAGES….. 🙂 (I’m not frustrated or anything. I’m not.)

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Isn’t THAT ironic! 🙄

Do you have the ability/willingness/inclination to contact “those professionals” to point out the apparent dichotomy? Or will you rely on the best judgment of your A readers?

If 10 out of 15 readers say, “speed it up,” that’s worth considering on the next re-write. If one out of 15 readers makes the same suggestion, it can be safely ignored.

I’m glad you’re not frustrated or anything. 😉

Andra Watkins - November 5, 2012

I have two A readers who take the book at the end of this week. I will revise to the specifications and give it to my pre-editor on Jan 15. My pre-editor is worth 20 readers. She used to work at Random House, and is a published author, so if she tells me something isn’t working, it isn’t.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

I’m glad you’re working with an editor you admire, Andra . . . makes things a bit less awkward. Best of luck.

6. Barbara Backer-Gray - November 5, 2012

I never buy books from the bargain tables at the bookstore, because they’re usually there for a reason, like you said. If I want a bargain (always), I go to Half Price Books and get them for a dollar on the carts outside as opposed to three dollars on the shelves inside.
I’m a pretty good judge of whether I’ll like a book or not before buying it, but when I do start a book I don’t like, I will give it another 50 pages chance, but if it hasn’t got its act together by then, it’s out.
I did use to slog through a book as if it was a must, but by now I know that life’s too short for bad books.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

I’ve even decided that FREE is no bargain UNLESS I am enjoying the book or learning something from it. Reading either benefits the reader, or no one.

7. spilledinkguy - November 5, 2012

Well… um… I hope it had an attractive cover, at least. 😉
I ‘Googled it’ and came up with (a) random knife-wielding dude and/or (b) a silhouetted castle… so… that’s… something, right?!

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Och, mon, there’s a lovely wee castle on a loch on the cover. A bonny sight. 😀

8. 2e0mca - November 5, 2012

Ah Dreed ta think waht ye’d think about tha books ah reed then Nancy 😉 Sometimes there’s a gem hiding in there but you need to be a pearl fisher to find it 🙂

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Yes! And all that abrasive sand shines the pearl to a fine polish, eh? 😉

9. jannatwrites - November 5, 2012

543 pages? Yikes! And those were short stories 🙂 I still do bargain books, and I have actually found a few that I would pass on to others. (I won’t go into how many I had to read to find the few good ones…it would make my ratio look terrible!)

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

The Killing Game was 150 pages, plus or minus. The other stories varied between 5 and 40 pages in length.

When I stop wading through a “bad book,” I feel liberated! And delighted that I saved time for other pursuits.

10. sufilight - November 5, 2012

Seems like it would be too heavy a book for me. 😀 I am smiling at the comments and the Scottish accent. Never could understand it but found it charming.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Martin’s brogue is spot on . . . mine’s a bit spotty. 😉

I might have enjoyed the book better if it had weighed half as much ~ maybe it’s time for me to get a Kindle.

11. Three Well Beings - November 6, 2012

I have stopped buying books from the bargain pile–or I say that now. I’m a bit impulsive at times. But what I discovered was that I would bring a few new ones home and then I never read them. They didn’t call out to me once home! I think there is a reason most are on the bargain table. There’s a lot of good writing out there, but we’ve come to the point where there is so much available we expect great! Which is not a bad thing!

nrhatch - November 7, 2012

More and more, I borrow books from the library or the clubhouse rather than buying them. Most books, I read only once. I don’t need or want to add them to my permanent collection.

I’m also reading through books that have been sitting unread on our bookshelves ~ read, donate, repeat. 🙂

12. bluebeadpublications - June 16, 2013

At my old school, they had a teacher’s lounge where you could bring in and take out books. Great system except so many of the books were crap. Sometimes even free is not a bargain.

nrhatch - June 16, 2013

Yes! The library offers Beach Reads which can be borrowed on the honor system. I often bring a stack home and return half of them unread because they aren’t worth the time investment.

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