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Addicted?: I Have Officially Spent Too Much Money on E-Books

Jessi Lewis

Staff Writer

Jessi Lewis has her MFA in fiction and an MA in Writing and Rhetoric. She was one of the founding editors of Cheat River Review and now works to bring her own fiction, poetry and essays to eyes each month.     Twitter: @jessiwrit

Welcome to what feels like a silly, senseless conflict. When I evaluate my credit card, I know that danger is ahead. Reading is part of my job, part of my life, but I am prone to listening to a bookish podcast and then buying a recommended reading on a whim. In theory, this is a great availability of a resource I would have never had before (Walls are being broken down!). In reality, when I listen to a mass of podcasts, my reading list builds up without much awareness on my part.

I miss the library, but its location and lack of convenience just doesn’t fit into my life well. I joined in on the agreement with my local library to read their digital collection entries each for a few weeks at a time, but I could never stick to their schedule. Instead, downloads became my dependency. I am adrift in my own excuses and my love for immediate reading download.

Of course, if I thought about moving back to traditional reading forms, then I would need two more book cases. So, there’s an efficiency to my e-reader that allows me to balance both electronic and paper books more easily than before.

Why can’t I celebrate the positives here?

There is the necessary hesitancy over corporate relationships and how authors are getting paid (You can see how the New Yorker approached this in regards to Amazon here.) It’s important to know the complexities of this as an avid reader.

But, there is also an important recognition of personal reality. Yes, I’m saving space by not buying as many physical books as I used to, and yes, it will be WAY easier to move since I’ve cut back on paper book ownership. At the same time, it’s important that I have control over this habit. If the purchase button is available on a screen, the digital ease of purchase can be a distraction from the fact that you really are spending money. The experience is different from going into a bookstore, but the expenditure is the same. In some ways, I wanted to write this post to make myself come to this kind of awareness. It’s easier to realize a weakness if you write it down, and my weakness is purchasing words without restraint.

This isn’t necessarily shopping addiction, though there are some similarities like my celebration of immediate gratification and a love for availability of items. Luckily, I haven’t come across the true issues such a habit produces, like financial destruction. But, maybe, if I keep going, I could (Yes, I had to look this up to make sure I really wasn’t a shopping addict. You can see how Psychology Today approaches this here.)

If you try to research an online shopping addiction on Google, you tend to come across books for sale that emphasize overcoming shopping addiction. The Internet is an ironic environment. Meanwhile, many people would say that I don’t have a real issue here. Reading and collecting is not a problem, and I seem to have it under control. I need to feel lucky that I love my job, that I have a passion that I can afford. It’s difficult however to define the line between “collecting” and “obsessing”.

I have my boundaries now:

-I refuse to download any apps that make book shopping that much more convenient.

-I only purchase books on Friday and gather a shopping cart over the week to see the full effect of my purchases at the end.

-I keep wishlists and hold onto them, then pare them back. I usually lose my reader’s thrill a couple weeks later.

I have my controls, but worry about the future– when one-click buying becomes a part of home life as many people are predicting. Accessibility produces demons. How do you control yours?