Every time I go to buy a book online, I end up getting stuck in this terrible "get free shipping" game. After all, the free shipping saves you $10, easy, for books you already would buy anyway. But, therein lies the problem: you have to find books to fill out that $25 limit to get the free shipping, and the Internet does not make this easy.
For example, recently I found out I had $5 of "Borders Bucks" to spend. Since it would be a pain in the
ass to go all the way to the local Borders on a weekend (I don't own a car and the bus isn't all that great here on weekends), I decided this would be a good time to a) buy a book I really want and b) get some books that might come in use later during my graduate career. So, I set out to find a good book to buy, and even asked for suggestions from all of you in the process (thanks for the help, by the way).
Well, Borders, while wonderful and lovely and all that good stuff, made me work to use that $5. Half the time the books that I wanted were $5 cheaper on Amazon, which makes spending money on them rather pointless if I'm not technically saving any money. This let me to reduce my acquisitions to paperbacks. Then there was the long, drawn out process of trying to find good paperbacks to buy that weren't too old and fit what I was looking for ("literary" SF/F). Borders doesn't make that easy either. You see, the bookselling industry has no easy method you can use to find books that might cross over into the "fiction" or "literature" areas, even though they technically are science fiction or fantasy. So, as much as you might want to find them in the endless "fiction" section, you never will, unless you read every single page for every book (which, let's be honest here, none of us are going to do).
This meant that I had to reduce my selections to those books labeled as science fiction and fantasy. Why? Because I do not read outside of those genres unless I'm forced to (or it's a non-fiction book that is useful to me). I like SF/F. That's all I like. Literary fiction bores the hell out of me and so does most everything else. That's not to say I don't like literary SF/F (I do, a lot, actually), just that I need a little weird in my fiction to keep me interested. As I've said before: I live in real life; I don't particularly want to read about it.
By the time I got things narrowed down, I had already spent too much time trying to figure things out anyway. Then came the really hard part: actually picking the books. Anyone who shops online knows how hard that is. Lots of link clicking, lots of poor descriptions, missing information, and other issues that make it impossible to figure out if a book is worth your time. There is nothing that the Internet can do to make the book buying experience as entertaining or as efficient as being in an actual bookstore. Nothing.
Eventually I managed to narrow things down, but it was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. This makes me wonder if I should keep a running list of "books I want" so that when this happens again I can just start at the top and snatch them one by one. The problem is that I like to buy books that are fairly recent just so I don't end up with some old thing that's been sitting on a shelf for five years.
How do you all go about your online book purchases? I want to hear your stories and ideas!