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A Buyer versus A Browser?

Boyfriend and I have very different tastes and habits. He hates musicals and sports, I wish Friday Night Lights would incorporate dance sequences. He says “soda,” and I say “pop.”  We also have very different styles when it comes to trying to pick out our entertainment options.

When we go to rent a movie, Boyfriend likes research options online, using sites like Metacritic and RottenTomatoes to see what people like him have liked, then goes to the video store and picks up the movie he already chose.  No browsing at the store, just in and out. He’s very efficient.

I, on the other hand, rely more on my own whims.  I go in to the store knowing sort of what I want — comedy or drama, let’s say — but then like to meander around the store until I find a title that strikes my fancy.  Sometimes it’s a movie I’ve heard of before, sometimes I like the cover or the title, or sometimes it’s just random.  The point is I like going into the store without knowing exactly what I am going to come out with.

I’m the same way with bookstores.  I rarely go in with a specific idea of what I want to buy.  Sure, I have a long list of books I’ve gleaned from all you fantastic bloggers, but I rarely refer to the list when I’m poking around a used bookstore.  I like to browse shelves, holding on to the books I’m considering while I just walk around.  I’ve found some of my recent favorite books this way: Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis or It’s All Greek to Me by John Mole or The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates.

I particularly love clearance sections because they aren’t sorted by topic, so as you scan the shelves you never know what you’re going to come across. I think of it as the zen of the books — by sheer luck I believe the perfect book will find me if I leave myself open to the possibilities.

Who is the weird one — me or Boyfriend? And more importantly, how about you, buy or browse? Do you go into a store knowing what you want, or let your new books find you?

Photo by flickr user ktylerconk

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anastasia February 26, 2009, 8:48 pm

    I always SAY I know exactly what I’m going to get when I go to a bookstore, but inevitably I end up browsing around and finding one or two (or three) more books I want. The clearance section, it calls to me!

  • Kim L February 26, 2009, 9:36 pm

    I do enjoy researching my potential purchases online, but I tend to be a browser as well. My favorite place to search for books is at a used book store or library sale. So much potential in a stack of books!

  • softdrink February 26, 2009, 9:47 pm

    I’m all about the browsing! If I know what I want, I usually just order it online.

  • Lynn February 26, 2009, 10:04 pm

    Isn’t Work Freak fantastic? I love stories about subcultures like that. As to your question, now that I am towing a toddler around with me, I not only look up books ahead of time, but I actually request library books online (even when they’re available) so I can just pick it up at the counter! Before parenthood, it would depend where I was going. My library didn’t have a very browseable fiction section, so I’d always spend time online looking before going. But bookstores on the other hand seem to always have inviting displays full of books that appeal to me, so then I wouldn’t need to look beforehand.

  • Meg @ Literary Menagerie February 26, 2009, 10:07 pm

    I do both — I walk in with a list, then add to the pile as I walk around. After all, I’ve yet to meet someone who could resist a good clearance section.

  • Rebecca Reid February 26, 2009, 10:07 pm

    I say you are the weird one (in the nicest way possible :)). I can’t stand Clearance racks when they aren’t in any order! And I don’t buy anything (or even check it out!) unless I’ve planned on getting it. Used bookstores: I get very frustrated because their selection is so sketchy, even if their prices are good. And it’s so hard to find things. I get a headache. I usually buy online, Amazon Marketplace.

  • Kim February 26, 2009, 10:26 pm

    Anastasia: I know, clearance sections are amazing. The Half-Priced Books near my house in MN had a shelf where all the books were $1, amazing!

    Kim L: I forgot about library sales, those are wonderful too. I like that you used the word potential, that’s exactly what I mean.

    softdrink: Yes, I order online when I know what I want, most of the time, because I get frustrated if I go to a store and they don’t have the specific book I want.

    Lynn: I do too, I’ve been trying to find more books like that one, but they’re sort of random and not easy to find. I’ve started to request more library books online, but that’s because I’ve been using ILL a lot. If I had a kid to bring around, I doubt I’d spend as much time browsing — that would be hard!

    Meg: Yeah, a good clearance section is hard to beat, at least for me.

    Rebecca: Ha ha, thanks 🙂 Sketchy selection is a frustrating part of used bookstores — I don’t usually go in looking for a specific title because I get frustrated if I can’t find it. A good clearance section is still in order, and I love those. Slightly less patience for messy ones, if I’m in a hurry, but I always at least take a look.

  • bermudaonion February 27, 2009, 6:52 am

    I kind of do both. I go into a bookstore with a list and usually buy what’s on the list. But, I can’t resist browsing and always end up with something else too.

  • belleofthebooks February 27, 2009, 7:50 am

    I’m just like you, I love to browse. I also come up with a huge stack of options and whittle it down from there. I’m always surprised by what I end up with.

  • Jeanne February 27, 2009, 9:15 am

    If I “need” a book, I usually get it from the library or order it from Amazon, because I live in a rural area. So when I get to a bookstore, I browse.

  • julia February 27, 2009, 10:48 am

    My husband and I are opposite to you and your boyfriend. My husband does the exact same thing as you at the used book store – moseys around with books in his arms that he may or may not set back down again. I generally glance quickly for what I want. If it’s not there, I move on. And I like to see what other readers or movie viewers say about a book or film.

    But there are times when all I want to do is stroll around a mall and look at stuff. I find that very relaxing, the aimlessness of it.

  • Eva February 27, 2009, 11:43 am

    I’m a total browser in stores, whereas in the library, I have all the books I want already on hold and pick them up. I do usually browse the ‘New’ shelves, though, before I leave. 🙂 I love browsing!!

  • Chava February 27, 2009, 11:52 am

    I used to go to buy the “book on the list” and end up getting a whole pile. Nowadays when I find something browsing at the bookstore, I text myself the title and do some research online before I get it. Of course it results in more frequent trips to the bookstore, but that never hurt anybody! 🙂

  • Kim February 27, 2009, 12:13 pm

    bermudaonion: I think it’s fun to also get something you were expecting. I don’t have a lot of space for extra books, so I can’t buy too many at a time.

    belleofthebooks: I always carry around a few for awhile, then before I leave I go through this painful process of trying to decide which one or two to actually get, then have to go put the rest of my big pile back. It’s a process 🙂

    Jeanne: Yes, “need” is right — I get most of those super important books online or from a store I know will have it.

    julia: That’s funny! I’m usually a lot more efficient when I’m in a mall, especially if I know what I needed. I don’t spend a lot of time just shopping at the mall unless I’m with friends, but will often browse bookstores by myself.

    Eva: I’ve been browsing at the library a lot less than I used to. When I was a kid I could spend hours just wandering around the library finding books. Now, like you, I usually put books on hold and then just pick them up. Thank goodness for ILL!

    Chava: That’s a really good idea! If I had a car or could get to stores more easily, I’d think about doing that a lot more. And yes, more bookstore trips are always good 🙂

  • Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit) February 27, 2009, 12:49 pm

    I’m a browser at bookstores and used bookstores, but for clothes and movie rentals…I know what I want and go in and get out…shoes is a whole other story because my feet are odd and it takes me forever to find a comfortable pair.

    I love looking through the clearance sections of bookstores to find those gems…you are not odd at all.

  • Dorte H February 27, 2009, 12:53 pm

    I am definitely a browser – so is my family, though my husband is sometimes more resolute.
    Isn´t your boyfriend a browser also in spite of his browsing from home?

  • Kim February 27, 2009, 1:24 pm

    Serena: I still like browsing for movies, most of the time, and books. Shoes are a huge pain — I have short and wide feet so that makes it hard to buy some of them. Finding a good pair of shoes is a commitment 🙂

    Dorte: He sort of is, although what he does seems more like researching what he wants rather than browsing. He figures out what he is interested in and then finds it; when I think of browsing I think of looking around without knowing seeking outside information to help you make a choice. I’m not sure if that makes sense or not!

  • Care February 27, 2009, 4:02 pm

    I would have to say that in my pre-blogging days, I was better at browsing. Now I’m overwhelmed with how many books I feel I want to read right now! and all the challenge books I’ve signed up for and….
    stressful! But a good bargain and a surprise in the bargain bin can bring on a joyful moment.

  • monnibo February 27, 2009, 6:30 pm

    Neither one of you is weird! I am sometimes like you, I’m sometimes like your BF. My boyfriend and I are polar opposites too. But it’s what makes things interesting. I’m sure you’ve enjoyed the things he’s picked, and he enjoys the things you pick.

    Sometimes I want to be efficient — in and out. Other times I want to browse because I’m not really sure what I’m in the mood for.

  • Jessi February 28, 2009, 7:09 am

    I’m definitely a browser. And I agree with you re: clearance racks. That’s how I find some of the best books!

  • thebookzombie March 3, 2009, 11:23 am

    I always have a list in mind, but I could never leave a store without browsing first. Imagine all that you could miss by not looking around 🙂