Book Club’s Dark Reality: An Exposé

Dear readers, you recently got to know the social side of book club a little better through Catherine‘s reporting on our Holiday meeting. She painted a harmonious picture, but I’m here to warn you – don’t be fooled. The very fabric of book club is constantly in imminent danger of being torn apart by in-fighting. We each harbour outside loyalties…to where and how we acquire our books.

To a non-bookphile this may seem trivial, but trust me it is a very serious matter. There are four camps lead by Julia, Sian , Brigitte, and myself. We each attempt to recruit members to our side – both subtly and overtly. This post will serve to provide a comparison of the pros and cons of each – once and for all.

Ladies (and gentlemen), brace yourselves.

Big Box Store

Bright and shiny.

Bright and shiny.

Julia is the champion of this cause. Her allegiance lies with Chapters, and she often offers to purchase multiple copies of our monthly read online for other members. To those in this group, Heather Reisman (of “Heather’s Pick” fame/infamy) is someone to be admired – Julia has often been heard saying that she consider’s Heather’s position a dream job.

Cost Rating: $-$$$ (dependent on sales)

Convenience Rating: High (many locations, large selection in stock, store organization, online ordering)


  • Can save money through various promotions, including:
    • Points program (Plum Rewards)
    • Frequent sales
    • Free shipping on online orders over $25 (pre-tax), and savings by buying online
  • Customer service and resources (ex: can check online if your book is in stock at various locations, good return policy *cough*)
  • Supports authors
  • You get to add to your library
  • You are able to lend to friends or read again


  • More expensive than other options
  • In order to take advantage of the full cost-savings options, the customer must use a points card and watch for sales/wait for their online orders to ship
  • Environmental impact of printing, shipping and storing books pre-sale (paper, factory and trucking exhaust, store electricity and heating)

Independent/Used Book Seller

Some nostalgia and the highest potential for being buried in a book avalanche.

Some nostalgia and the highest potential for being buried in a book avalanche.

Sian is the champion of our local/used book seller. If there is a new spot opening or one has recently closed she can be relied upon to share the news. The only thing equal to her love of the independent shop is her hatred for large retail locations. Although Sian and Julia are childhood friends, this is one topic upon which they will never see eye to eye. After all, when one person’s idol is the other’s Antichrist, there isn’t much room for compromise.

Cost Rating: $ – $$$ (dependent on whether you’re buying new/used)

Convenience Rating: Low-Medium (dependent on your proximity to the shop of your choice, as well as their selection/ability to order and the store’s organization)


  • Supports local small business owners
  • Buying new:
    • Supports authors
  • Buying used:
    • Your book has a history (known or unknown) of previous owners/readers/lovers
    • You are saving money
    • You are minimizing the environmental cost of printing and shipping
  • You get to add to your library or re-sell/trade you book to be enjoyed by someone else
  • You are able to lend to friends or read again


  • More expensive than other options
  • Buying new:
    • Environmental impact of printing, shipping and storing books pre-sale
  • Buying used:
    • Environmental impact of storing books pre-sale
    • Authors are not benefiting from the sale of their book


It may be a little old school, but the stacks are a gorgeous sight.

It may be a little old school, but the stacks are a gorgeous sight.

Brigitte is a staunch supporter of your local library. An example of a real-life conversation that occurred between Brigitte and a fellow book club member (BCM):

BCM: I don’t want to buy this month’s book. It’s expensive and I don’t think I would read it again.
Brigitte: It’s free at the library.
BCM: Oh, but I don’t have a library card.
Brigitte: THAT’S FREE TOO.

Check-mate? Read on before you decide.

Cost Rating: Free! (see above)

Convenience Rating: Medium (dependent on your proximity to a library and the popularity/stocking of the book you’d like)


  • Free. Enough said.
  • Your book has a history (known or unknown) of previous readers/lovers
  • You are minimizing the environmental cost of printing and shipping
  • You are able to recommend the book to friends (you can lend it to them yourself or recommend them to the library!)


  • Environmental impact of storing books long term
  • Authors are not benefiting from the sale of their book
  • You cannot add the book to your library
  • You have to apply for a library card
  • You have to return the book by a predetermined deadline (and may not be done reading)


My personal favourite.

My personal favourite.

I have used an e-reader (the Amazon Kindle) for several years now. Originally, I was a skeptic – after all, there’s nothing like holding a real-life book, right? After making the switch, I have to say I would never go back. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about e-readers that I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss.

  1. True e-readers (as opposed to tablets) are not back-lit, and therefore there is no eye strain like what is experienced reading on computers
  2. A record of the books in your ‘library’ is kept by your book provider (in my case, Amazon) and if the reader is lost, stolen or broken you did not lose all your books
  3. You are able to make notes and highlight (as well as see what sections are most often highlighted by others)
  4. You are able to adjust font size, line spacing and screen orientation to your preference

Cost Rating: Free – $$ (after the initial investment)

Convenience Rating: High (most books are available in an electronic version at the same time or shortly after they come out in stores, and the file is delivered wirelessly to your device)


  • Supports authors
  • Reduces environmental impact by removing printing, shipping, and storage (you still have to charge the reader, but battery life is extensive (lasts for months))
  • You are saving money after the initial investment in the reader (e-books are sold at a reduced price, and can sometimes be found free online)
  • More portable than a regular novel (lighter, smaller)
  • You are able to read again


  • More expensive than other options (requires an initial investment)
  • You cannot lend to friends
  • You cannot re-sell the book
  • There are no page numbers (although it is searchable)


And with that, the time for neutrality and peace-keeping has officially passed. The gauntlet has been thrown and we each must choose a side in this rectangle (Square? …Trapezoid.) of a power struggle.

Where do you get your books? Have you changed loyalties in the past? Have any of these points swayed you to try something new? Did I miss something (or misrepresent your preferred source)?

Comment, reply to our poll, and/or tweet at us – we want to hear from you!




About Erin Chezick

Experienced Information Coordinator with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Strong education professional working towards a Master of Business Administration (MBA) focused in Management and Change from Carleton University.
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8 Responses to Book Club’s Dark Reality: An Exposé

  1. Brigitte says:

    Erin, I also have a Kobo e-reader, and guess what! You can get library books on it!

    Great summary. Now, everyone go get a library card!


  2. Julia Kent says:

    I have MULTIPLE comments.
    Second, I am not sure “books having a history (known or unknown) is a pro. Maybe it should be a con, since I’ve heard library books can have bed bugs. But I regularly sleep with Brigitte and she’s doesn’t seem to have bed bugs. Hmmm.
    Lastly, I voted for the big box stores. Duh.


    • Erin Chezick says:

      Dearest Julia – I am also not entirely convinced that your book having a history is an overwhelming positive. However, I included this in the ‘pros’ because I’ve heard many people who buy used or are library patrons cite this as something they enjoy. Bed bugs can be an unofficial con 😉


  3. Erin Hopkin says:

    I also have multiple comments:
    1. A con of the library: if its a relatively new book there is ALWAYS a waiting list to get a copy. That is not convenient if its for book club where we only have a month to obtain and read the book. And i agree that the history of the book is not a plus – what if they read it while in the bathroom…. i don’t want to touch that.
    2. I take issue with the tendency of independent book stores to increase the price of new books over the amount recommended by the publisher. The only other place that does that is the airport because they know people are desperate and will pay. I feel that is taking advantage of customers. I won’t pay more for the same book I could get online from Chapters.
    3. A con of big box stores: despite their extensive shipping network (at least anywhere close to the US Border) they still continue to charge Canadian customers more than American customers despite the dollars being at par. Don’t tell me coming an hour north of the border increased the price by 15% – I call BS!
    4. I am also still not sold on an ereader because i like my bookshelf and want a home library….

    I don’t know where my vote goes – but probably with Chapters.


  4. Mary Anne Carter says:

    I must confess, I shop at Chapters. I like collecting my Plum points and getting free stuff. But mostly because it tends to be more cost-effective in the long-run (for those of us who do not own an e-reader). However, I am a frequent “shopper” within various libraries. In fact, Rachel Joyce’s book is available at the MRT library at the University of Ottawa right now…… I do like collecting books and placing them on my book shelf, but I don’t think it is always necessary. My final two cents: I think you could add Costco to the “big box” category. I bought a cookbook from Chapters and it was $35 (plus Plum points). The same book was available (as are several NYT best sellers), for $22 at Costco! I am all for supporting local, but man that’s a difference in price, especially for a student!


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