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TSS: In which I get excessively nerdy with my 2010 reading stats

January 9, 2011

The Sunday Salon.comHappy Sunday, all! I hope that the first week of 2011 has treated everybody splendidly!

So this past week, I was being excessively nerdy (peanut gallery: just last week?) and playing around with my reading tracking spreadsheet. I was trying to see if I could get it to calculate things like %s of annual reading by genre, years of publication, etc. – all of the things that people always incorporate into their year-end reviews, but which I am usually too lazy to calculate after an evening of champagne-fueled debauchery. I think I’ve figured out a way to do this that will be useful to/useable by more people than just me, but it’s still in progress. There will be an update to the spreadsheet eventually, though.

Anyways, while I was messing around with things, I decided to add a column for the date a book went on to my TBR pile, so that for non-library books etc., I could calculate how long on average books sit around my house unread. It turns out my overall average is 351 days, which, while interesting in itself – books have to “age” for a year before I get to them – doesn’t provide any basis for comparison. I then tried breaking down TBR tenure by genre. That yielded some things I could have told you without crunching the numbers (classics tend to sit longest on my TBR pile, by a margin of about two years), but also some surprising facts (in 2010 I read non-fiction faster than I did any other genre, including fantasy: 207 vs. 286 days, respectively).

*Then* I tried breaking down TBR pile tenure by the means in which I acquired a book, and found something really surprising:

My eagerness to read a book is directly proportional to how much I pay for it. Review copies obviously have a time limit and a sense of obligation attached, and I tend to read those less than a month after they come into the house. Gifts don’t have a time limit, but do have a similar sense of obligation, so they get read fairly quickly also. For the rest of it, though…

The library booksale is $1-2/book. Bookmooch averages out to about $2.50-3/book. Bookcloseouts is about $4-5. Amazon is cheaper than buying from an actual bookstore. Among books that I pay for, the cheaper they are, the longer it will take me to get to them. (The exception to the rule is the one book I read from a used bookstore, but that’s a special case – I stopped buying books from the used bookstore once I discovered the much cheaper library booksale, so any book from the used bookstore that’s still on my TBR pile is by necessity more than three and a half years old.)

On the one hand, I guess this makes sense. Books that I’m going to shell out enough money for to acquire new are ones that I’m going to be most excited about reading, whereas I’m a lot more likely to say “Oh, that looks interesting… someday” when it’s only costing me a dollar. What surprised me was that BookMooch books fell right in line with the trend. Because the act of paying (sending books out) is so removed from the act of receiving books, I always thought that I thought of BookMooch books as being free. But apparently my subconscious knows better, treating BookMooch books as being worth exactly what they cost. That’s pretty neat. Hooray stats!

What about you, readers? What factors determine how quickly you read the books you acquire?

26 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2011 10:05 am

    I love that you have done this. I no idea really. When I buy books, I buy multiple books. I do know that I’ll read up to half of the new bunch of books, but the rest will linger on my TBR shelf for years. I’ll get around to some of them and end up giving some of them away.

    No if only the same could be said of ice cream…..

    • January 9, 2011 11:19 am

      …then you’d have a freezer full of half-eaten tubs of years-old ice cream, and I’d be scarfing down on fresh Ben & Jerry’s while letting the store brand stuff sit untouched.

  2. January 9, 2011 11:12 am

    I can’t wait to mooch that spreadsheet you have going and get semi-geeky with my stats. I won’t say full geek because I am much too lazy to actually figure out how to create the spreadsheet. :)

    • January 9, 2011 11:20 am

      Trisha – That’s actually a good tagline for a lot of things I do: “I go full geek so that you don’t have to!”

  3. January 9, 2011 11:21 am

    Oh, I love this! I haven’t crunched the numbers for my own TBR books, but the books marinading for a year makes perfect sense to me, given the ones that are on my shelves right now. The buying from the library booksale also makes sense. I bought 56 books at the spring library booksale and haven’t touched any of them. Maybe someday ….:)

    • January 12, 2011 9:12 am

      Melissa – 56 in one go??? Wow. Maybe put just one at the top of the pile, so you can say “Oh, of course I’m reading those books; I just finished one the other day!”

  4. January 9, 2011 11:51 am

    This is really interesting, and I’m not joking at all. I must add columns for this into my own spreadsheet! I have a sneaky feeling I operate similarly, although I do leave some review copies a little too long. Generally, though, the more I pay for a book, the more I want to read it, so it will get read much faster. I’ve noticed that books from Amazon orders disappear much faster than books that cost $1 and I thought I’d read eventually.

    • January 12, 2011 9:13 am

      Meghan – On the flipside, I purchased Way of Kings back in September, really wanting to read it immediately, but the timing and my mood never coincided, so it’s still in my box o’ “I’m going to read this next, I swear!”

  5. January 9, 2011 12:14 pm

    Definitely I have the same issue with sense of obligation. It’s not that I am less interested in books I’ve bought at the bookstore, but they’re mine forever, whereas library books have to go back, and someone’s going to want to know fairly soon if I liked my gifts and review copies. I was reviewing several library books recently that I’d really wanted to read, and felt like I got to pretty soon, but when I went back and looked at the reviews that had made me want them in the first place, they were like six months ago.

    • January 12, 2011 9:15 am

      Jenny – Oh, yeah, I’m counting “on the TBR pile” as “books that I own and have not yet read”. Library books and borrowed books don’t count.

  6. January 9, 2011 12:16 pm

    What an interesting graph!

    I would guess 90% of my reading comes from library books. So I read them (fairly) soon after they come into my house. And then I happily return them. ;)

    • January 12, 2011 9:15 am

      Eva – Ah, but which books do you read within the first three weeks, and which do you have to renew? :)

  7. January 9, 2011 1:45 pm

    I love that you’ve done this. I love graphs and statistics. I couldn’t do this because I don’t keep track of my list of books or when or where they came to me. I am such an impulse buyer and I’m trying to curb that somewhat. Many books on my shelves are ones that I just “had to have” and then they sit. Like a kid in a candy stor (or even an adult in a candy store), my interest is quickly grabbed by the next thing. Perhaps later this year I will catalogue my books and keep some statistics that relate to my reading more than what I currently keep (title, author, date finished, personal/Kindle/library/audio).

    • January 12, 2011 9:17 am

      Kay – My records date back to when I started my LibraryThing catalog (August ’06), which has a nice convenient field for “date acquired”, which makes the calculations much easier!

  8. January 9, 2011 3:13 pm

    I’m pretty sure that my graph would look very similar, although I suspect the review copies hang around a bit longer. I know that if I pay a lot of money to buy a book it is because I really want to read it and so will start it almost straight away. I have been buying a lot of books just because they are cheap and I need to stop doing it – they just hang around my house far too long and normally aren’t that good.

    • January 12, 2011 9:18 am

      Jackie – Some of my review copies do sit around for a lot longer than others that get read almost right away… I think it depends on how soon the publishers get me the ARCs before the publication date, and how much my mood matches the book when I receive it vs. when I request it.

  9. January 9, 2011 4:39 pm

    The past two years I’ve given review books top priority. Bought books, contest wins and gifts are all on the back burner.

    • January 12, 2011 9:19 am

      Lenore – I’m the same way, although I do try to read all gifts within a year (i.e. read books from Christmas ’10 before Christmas ’11 rolls around.)

  10. January 9, 2011 7:03 pm

    I have no idea how my time spent on TBR vs where I got the book would graph out. Lately I’ve been buying more stuff new than in previous years, but at the same time hitting up the library more than in previous years as well.

    I think the biggest variable for how fast I read a specific book is the author. if a book is written by one of my top 10 authors, it gets put at the top of the TBR, regardless of how I got it.

    • January 12, 2011 9:20 am

      Redhead – Hmmm, I wonder how that would turn out: comparing authors I’ve read before vs. new-to-me authors… off to my spreadsheet!

  11. January 9, 2011 10:00 pm

    That wasn’t excessively nerdy. It was exactly nerdy enough. :)

    I’ve never thought about it before, but I imagine my breakdown would be similar to yours. I used to buy cartloads of super cheap used books from charity sales, and most of them languished unread for years. They looked mildly interesting and were cheap enough that I figured I could take a chance on them, but I wasn’ t driven to read them right away. New books, on the other hand, cost so much that I rarely bought them at all unless I was eager to read them straight off.

    • January 12, 2011 9:22 am

      Memory – “Exactly nerdy enough” is another good personal tagline.

      I did a lot of damage when I first discovered the library booksale and its $1 paperbacks (and $0.75 MMPs). Enough that when I did a big purge a year and a half ago, a lot of the books that got donated back to booksale were ones that I’d acquired there in the first place. I caught a lot of flack from my friends about paying $1 per book to rent it unread for a few years.

  12. January 11, 2011 5:50 pm



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