The Selfish Hippie teaches you how to read

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
http://misusingbigwords.blogspot.com/2008/05/selfish-hippie-teaches-you-how-to-read.html
Since it’s sunny and warm year-round in Los Angeles, I had to go to my home town of Sacramento (where it was a pleasant high-70’s/low-80’s this weekend, but edging close to 100 this week) to figure out that we’re coming into summer. That can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but this selfish hippie will be engaging in an activity dreaded by high school students everywhere: summer reading.

So, since we’ll be doing some book-learnin’ this summer, I thought I’d offer a few tips to save your cash and spare some paper in the process. You know, in the spirit of “being green” and “sustainability” and all that junk.

There’s a magical world of free stuff
It’s called the Library! Not only do libraries stock the newest book releases, but they are getting better and better at having great selections of DVDs and CDs as well. I can’t remember the last time I paid for a movie rental because the library always seems to have at least one movie I would like to watch. Also, with the invention of this cool thing that I like to call “the internet,” libraries have gotten super easy to use.

For example, libraries may differ from county to county, state to state, but it seems the majority of them have some sort of “place a hold” system where you can reserve a copy of the book you want to read, and if it’s not available, the library will find the next available copy from any library in the system, send it to your preferred home library, and notify you when it’s available for pickup. For most books, this is a couple of weeks at most, just enough time to read another book. I usually order another book as soon as I pickup the one that just arrived, so I’m on a nice laddered book delivery system to keep me constantly entertained. (If you’re in the LA area, check out our library.)

There’s ANOTHER magical world of MORE free stuff
Websites are popping up like whack-a-moles these days with free books you can download. Whether it be Project Gutenberg, Google Books, or Wowio, there are tons of free downloadable books available by just Googling “free books”

Not into words? There are free audiobooks, too. Try LibriVox for quantity and selection or Simply Audiobooks for quality.

For every book you buy, sell one first
For those times you really feel the need to purchase a book, here’s a good rule to live by. Take a look at your bookshelf, right now. Count how many books you’ve read on there. Now, count how many of those you’ve read more than once. I’ll bet you’ve got a single digit number. Unless you’re a literature maniac or teacher, you probably won’t be reading most of your books more than once, so you really don’t need to keep them other than to look smarter because you have so many books on your bookshelf.

So, next time you are desperate to purchase a book, sell one of yours first. Amazon.com marketplace is good, as is Half.com. Something I’ve tinkered with but haven’t actually used it fully yet is swaptree.com (here's a good explanation of it). Basically, you fill out a profile of the books you have and the books you want, and it will allow you to trade one of yours for one you want with someone else on the site. Oh, and it works with DVDs and CDs too. Very community-like, which all you budding selfish hippies should love.

College is the best time to experiment
This is especially true when it comes to books. With college textbooks costing two arms and two legs these days, anytime you can get one free online, from a library, or at least used off Amazon or Half.com is good for the pocketbook. And if you don’t want to bother buying used then selling those books again 6 months later, you could try renting them. It probably ends up costing more, but might be a little bit less work.

So, when you're not busy reading the glorious words of the selfish hippie, enjoy some free summer reading. And until next time, keep saving money while saving the world.
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