Friday, 29 June 2012

Frugal Friday (29th June)

Do you enjoy reading?  Perhaps that is a strange question to ask since you'd have to be reading this blog post, to be able to answer that question.  But when I say "reading", I mean books.  I love reading!  It is one of my favourite passtimes.  It is also a favourite passtime of Little Bear, and although the menfolk in this home don't choose to read actual books quite so much, they too both enjoy reading websites, newspapers and other informative sources of writing. 

If you do enjoy reading, then you'll know that these days, buying books can be quite an expensive indulgence.  Especially the hardcover versions, which in England can be over £20 for a new copy.  Even paperbacks can cost as much as £12 if they are newly released.  But you don't have to spend as much as this to be able to grow your very own "home library".  There are many ways to save money and still enjoy indulging yourself with something new to read!

The most obvious way to save on books is to buy second-hand.  You can easily pick up second-hand books in thrift stores, though of course you will be limited by the selection available in the store - there won't be a full range of authors or even topics, of course, because their stock depends on what people have donated.  But if you aren't too worried about getting hold of a particular title, they are worth looking at.  They're particularly good, I find, for cookbooks and other informative books, and for "airport lounge" novels such as romance or thriller titles, which may not be to everyone's taste.  Children's books seem to be quite scarce in thrift stores, probably becuase they're either too battered to be sold by the time they get to the store, or they have been snapped up by the people who sort out the donations!  When the Cubs were small we tended to rely on the library instead of thrift stores.  Not only is the selection more varied, but of course library books are free (as long as you return them on time!) - in some thrift stores, the cost of a second-hand book is greater than buying some new ones on Amazon.

Libraries are great for families - as well as having lots of free books to borrow, they are usually good places to take your children to experience other cultural events, such as puppet shows, storytelling sessions and talks about topics of interest.  This is how it is in our big library in town, anyways.  Libraries are also a very good way to encourage your children to take care of books and treat them with respect, and from quite a young age, your child can independently check out their own books and return them, which encourages a sense of responsibility even in quite tiny children.  We use to visit our smaller branch library regularly - at least once a week, when the Cubs were wee!  In our town there is a strict limit on how many books you are allowed to have out at once, but each person has their own library card to take care of and use sensibly, which again is a good way to encourage your children to be self-reliant and responsible. 

As I mentioned above, we do find Amazon great for being able to buy cheap books.  If you buy used books from Amazon Marketplace, they can be as little as a penny (plus postage) - check the rating of each seller, and also the condition of the book.  We tend to go for "like new" or "very good condition" and avoid sellers with a rating of less than 97%.  So far, we have only once had a disappointment using this method of book buying - and on that occasion we were given a refund by the seller, without having to return the book!  Of course Amazon also sells new books, and some of these are also extremely good value.  The classic authors, such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte and Elizabeth Gaskell, are often on sale for £1.99 or £2.49, and even some of the anthologies are less than £10.

If you don't mind using technology, of course, Amazon also offers a wireless alternative to reading a book - the Kindle.  There are numerous book titles that can be downloaded to a kindle for free - and many, many more that are available much more cheaply than their paper counterparts.  This is not always the case though - so before you buy, do check out the cost of the paper copy first.  I have noticed on several occasions that the paper copy is cheaper than the Kindle version.  There are many advantages to using a Kindle over books - especially if you travel a  lot, or work.  You can slip the equivalent of a whole library into your bag, and it can be taken with you, wherever you go.  Furthermore, you no longer need to find storage space for paper books if you have a Kindle.  Everything is stored on the device instead.  However, both Papa Bear and I feel that we would prefer not to read literature from a screen unless there is no alternative.  We enjoy the experience of reading a proper book - the feel of the paper, the appearance of the font on the pages, the pleasure of holding it and interacting with it.  Neither of us are yet willing to switch over to using a Kindle.  The Cubs may choose to buy one at some point - if they wish to, that is their decision - but we prefer to stick with our good old fashioned books!

You can also download or view entire books online, for free.  Project Gutenberg is an excellent resource for finding free online literature, but there are many other websites.  You can also purchase e-books online for far less than the cost of a paper book.  We've found some wonderful texts, now out of print, on Project Gutenberg, including the letters of Queen Victoria, the whole Elsie Dinsmore series, almost all the works of Charles Dickens, several works by Mrs. Beeton (such as Household Management) and many more.  It is easy to search the catalogue using keywords, and you will find that many of the books are now no longer easily available except online.  Independent websites also offer online books - we particularly like the J. R. Miller archives and the Charles Spurgeon archives which provide a wealth of spirital inspiration and guidance.

Of course there are also many websites offering online Bibles and Bible Studies.  The one we tend to use most is Bible Gateway, which has full online versions of many different Bible translations, plus audio readings, and concordances.  If you have access to a computer with internet connection, it's possible to read the Bible wherever you are - and in whatever language you want too!

There are so many ways to enjoy reading - many of them for free.  There's no reason for anyone not to be able to access the written word should they want to, and to be able to share their favourite books with their loved ones too - because reading aloud is one of the loveliest things you can do together as a family.  If you aren't use to doing this together, why not try a daily family Bible reading?  We have found this to be so enriching that we continue to share in our Bible study every single day, and believe that it has brought us many blessings as a family.