Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Buy Books for Cheap

by Phoebe Farag Mikhail

The musty scent of the Strand used book store in New York City remains a happy childhood memory ingrained in my mind. Every week, my father and I would take the subway down to the Strand, where he would leave me to explore the children and youth section while he explored the religion section. We never came home empty handed, and for a few dollars, we brought home treasures.

The beauty of books is that their value lies not in their material worth, but in the words written inside.

As the holidays draw near, giving the gift of a book can be a treasured one. The right book can show how much you have thought you have put into the gift, regardless of its cost. One of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Doyle Melton, on Momastery, suggests the following method for gift giving that she uses for her children:

One Gift You Want
One Gift the World Needs
One Gift to Wear
One Gift to Read

Today I’m going to help you find that "gift to read" without breaking the bank, both online and at "brick and mortar" stores.

Online: There are now numerous online retailers of used books.  Books whose condition is marked “used-like new” or “very good” are often pretty much good as new. “Good” and even “acceptable condition” work well for both bibliophiles like me and for children, who care more about being held and read to than having a bright and shiny brand new book. For children, books are new if they are new to them, and it's extra exciting if they come in a package in the mail.

Thriftbooks is one of my favorite online used book sellers. Shipping is included in the price, books start at $2.99, there is a multi-book discount of $.50 on each additional book if you order more than one book from the same warehouse. If you subscribe to their email list, you will get occasional discount offers, like buy 4 books, get one free going on right now with the promo code HOHOHO (good till December 14). Thriftbooks also has a wish list option and you can get instant notifications if a book you want appears in any of their warehouses.

Amazon offers listings of used books from many different used book retailers, saving you the trouble of finding an online retailer of every single book you want. Just click “used offers” on the book you are considering. Books can start at 1 cent, but will include $3.99 shipping, so the lowest cost you would pay is $4. And if you can’t find the book used, Amazon generally has the lowest prices on new books online. From now till December 14th, if you enter promo code BOOKDEAL25, you will get 25% off of one book.

Brick and Mortar:

The Public Library. No, I am not talking about borrowing books. You can actually buy books from your library, VERY CHEAPLY. Once, and sometimes twice a year, your local public library will hold a library book sale. Some libraries have a book sale on an ongoing basis. The books on sale are often in great condition, and are donated books as well as cast-offs from the shelves. Every library has its own system. At mine, they hand out large shopping bags, which we can fill up and pay a total of $5 for all the books in the bag. I’ve filled up my bag with upwards of 20 books and paid only $5 for all of it, and all those books retail for $12-15 each.

Used Bookstores. Used bookstores abound in every town and city in the US. In England, many charity shops also have used book sections. Some Barnes & Noble branches contain used book sections. If you get a Barnes and Noble Membership, you get 10% off everything in the store, including used books, adding up to greater discounts.

Local Bookstores. Both big box and local bookstores have “bargain bins” where you can find great deals on new books. Sometimes bestsellers that are now out in paperback will be found in hardcover at the bargain section.

Enjoy shopping for your gift to read, and don’t forget to buy yourself one (or two, or three…)

(Note: The Thriftbooks and Amazon links above are affiliate links, which means that if you use those links to make your purchases, I will receive a small commission. I affiliate with retailers that I purchase things from and would recommend. You are not obligated to use those links, but if you do use them, thank you!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Year of Finishing Projects

by Phoebe Farag Mikhail

I write this post with my head hanging in shame.

After finishing a huge editing project of a 500 page translated book, I feel a sense of relief and some sense of accomplishment, but not much.

It took me almost eight years to finish this project, and it didn’t have to. In those eight years, the original author had even passed away. Granted, the book was long, the editing tedious, and I did it in my spare time.

But it did not have to take eight years.

I could have finished it before getting married. I could have finished it before having my first child. I could have finished it before having my second child.

But now that it is done, and in the hands of the publisher, I will share the lessons I have learned from this shamefully accomplished project, and what finally motivated me to finish it.

Lesson 1: When committing to a project, carve out the time to do it. I often listed this project as a task to get done on a day or a week, but I didn’t block out the time in my schedule for it. If I had allotted simply 30 minutes a day to work on it from the beginning, it would have been done in two years, not eight. Because I did not do so, the task was done in fits and spurts – I would get 30 pages done in one sitting, then go back to it five months later, after putting it on the back burner to more urgent tasks. This is a lesson in discipline, project management, and time management. This free ebook, How to Work for Yourself, shares some good ideas for how to carve out those needed minutes and hours. I wish I had read it eight years ago.

Lesson 2: I work better when I work with other people. Editing is a solitary and tedious job. It takes time and concentration, and usually involves me and a computer, or piece of paper and a pen. However, when I joined a translation committee, and there were others who were now checking the sections I edited against the original language, I moved more quickly. It became a team effort, and my teammates were reviewing sections of the book faster than I was editing them – which motivated me to finish more quickly. This means that I should figure out a way to make future projects also team efforts – even when they don’t seem so at first.

Lesson 3: I work well with deadlines. The final push for me to get this done was when the publisher started pressing for the final manuscript, and the translator started holding me accountable. The pressure was on, but because it had taken me so long, I still had to balance this task with responsibilities I did not have when I first started. The lesson for me on future projects that don’t have external deadlines is to create them – perhaps by asking others to hold me accountable to a deadline I have set, or by vowing not to move on to a new, more exciting project till I finish the one I’m working on now.

Eleven months into 2014, I’m sharing my new year’s resolution because I decided writing how I finished a long term project would be more useful than writing about my intentions to do so. 

What helps you accomplish projects you have started? Please share your tips and ideas!