The Savvy Bookworms!

The StarTwo, the lifestyle & entertainment section of my favourite paper The Star, main feature today highlighted the five ways savvy bookworms maintain the expensive (but oh-so-worthwhile & pleasurable) habit of reading. For many of us in Malaysia, books sold in regular bookstores like MPH, Borders and Times burn huge holes in our wallets, pockets & purses. It still puzzles me why the government would one to impose such high import duties on books when they’re trying to encourage people to read.

Anyways, the writer – Elizabeth Tai – gave us poor bookworms cheaper and more convenient alternatives in getting our hands on books without having to starve ourselves or rob the bank. Here are my thoughts on each of the five alternatives for bookworms like myself to fulfill our book-reading needs.


  • Back in the ’90s when I was still in school, I definitely thought book-rental shops were heaven sent. I can still remember borrowing those evergreen teen mystery and thriller books like Hardy Boys, Famous Five, Goosebumps and R.L. Stine books. I was given very limited pocket money those days, and I would normally starve myself during recess time thrice a week to save up enough to rent one book. I must say, those books I’ve read played a great part in shaping and sharpening my fluency in English. Lord knows that if I hadn’t spent my free time reading those rented books, my English wouldn’t be as good as it is today and I probably wouldn’t end up as a journalist/writer as well! So, I’m all for renting books, especially if you can’t afford to buy books. Also, book-renting is also ideal if you’re the type who is easily attracted by the blurb/synopsis of a book because it “sounded interesting” or the type that reads books on the basis of the “cool title” and the author.

I’ll Give You Mine and You Give Me Yours!

  • Okay, I admit that I was astonished to read about the Bookcrossers and bookcrossing. I didn’t know that such a thing existed, and that there’s even one here in Malaysia…started by a 16-year-old no less! One thing is for sure, this is a great idea but only if you’re the type who can easily part with your books when you’re finish with it.  I have to confess, I am not that type…I’m very possessive of my books. I love my books and I can’t imagine myself giving away my precious books to someone else. I do borrow books to my friends, but I always get them back in the end. Of course, there comes a time when hard decisions have to be made – when I shifted to my new house last year, I had to give away a couple of boxes of books and comics to PayLess and my former secondary school’s library. But passionate habits are hard to neglect and after a year, I have reaccumulated new books and am facing a storage problem. *Sigh!* If only I have the heart to part with some books that I actually did not read again after the first reading. Swapping books is certainly a great idea and am sure there are many out there who will benefit from this bookcrossing effort.

 Discounts, discounts and more discounts!

  • I like discounts. 🙂 Who doesn’t? I’m a member of both MPH’s Readers’ Circle and Popular Bookstore as these are the two bookstores that I most frequently get my books from. I could not tell you how great and worth it to be members at these bookstores. The discounts given to members are so generous and wonderful! Besides member discounts, I also use discount coupons which I cut out from the newspapers and also hold out for generous friends who give me book vouchers as gifts on my birthday and Christmas. Heck, I don’t think I’ll be mad if anyone gives me a RM50 MPH book voucher as an angpow for Chinese New Year! Oh, and one more thing, it really pays if you could make friends with the bookstore employees too, as you can utilise their staff discounts! Heh, heh, my friend used to work at MPH and whenever I buy books, I pass my books and the money to her for her to pay on my behalf so that I can get books at discounted price!

Warehouse sales! Woot!

  • Like one of my favourite people in Malaysia, Bibliobibuli, I just loooooovvveee warehouse sales for books! This year alone, I’ve been to MPH’s warehouse sale, Times Bookstore’s warehouse sale, Popular warehouse sale and the Big Bookshop warehouse sale…spending an estimate total of RM350 for about 12 books! Like book-rental shops, warehouse sales are truly god-sent! Books going at such unbelievably low price that you’ll be forgiven for thinking that you’re dreaming of a bookworm’s paradise. Moreover, warehouse sales are the best places to look for precious gems you’ll never find in the regular bookshops. I’ve got a few of it myself and I’m enjoying them! Can’t wait for next year’s warehouse sales already! Hopefully by then, I’ll have extra shelves for all my precious books!

 Let’s Borrow!

  • Borrowing I definitely don’t mind. It’s different compared to swapping as swapping involves two people exchanging books. Borrowing entails that you give a book to a person for a certain amount of time only. Again, I don’t usually borrow books from people but I do lend books to people. When I do borrow, however, it’s mostly to check out the first chapter of the book and if I like it enough to buy it, I will return the book to its owner and go out and buy my own copy. If I don’t like it, the least I did was try to finish reading the entire book and then return it to the owner. It’s a great way to gauge whether a book is really worth the money buying it. Of course, it only works when someone else have already owned a copy of the book or if you go to libraries. 🙂 Unfortunately, the local libraries suck, with the exception of British Council’s library.
  • While these five ways are definitely great ideas and ideal for people hard on cash, I’m pretty much a loyal bookbuyer because I believe in giving the author its due. As I myself would like to be a successful author one day, I want to buy books as a way of encouraging the author and bless him/her back monetarily. Most of these authors may be millionaires, but spare a thought for the new authors and authors who are struggling to make a living writing these books for the entertainment and joy of other people, even if they say authors, first and foremost, write for themselves.

That said, what’s your favourite way of getting books for your reading pleasure?


  1. My favourite way to get my books? A mixture of all the methods you mentioned, though I rarely give away my books cos I’m far too possesive of them! 😀

    I get a lot of rented books, especially if they’re crime novels. If they’re really, really good I get it at discounted price (thanks to my sis who works in a bookstore. tee hee)

    I also get them free cos I review books (ahem). At one point I bought so many books a month (I can spend up to RM500 a month!) that I had to put brakes on that and decided to start renting books out more.

    However, I probably buy one or two books a month.

    My dad actually begs me to stop buying books, since we dont’ have any more space! But do I listen? No…….

  2. Bookcrossing has been around for some time but as pointed out, Msians can be quite kiasu. See free book, grab and sell.

    If I want to read books, buy lor : at warehouse sales and Payless. Strange how I hardly receive book gifts. I think people are scared of buying a book which the recipient has read before. That’s why book vouchers are great!!

    Thanks for supporting authors!

  3. i absolutely agree with you on renting books. i was nuts about them in my tweens and early teen years. i’d go to two different book rental stores every week and borrow half a dozen at each trip. my poor dad’s wallet! a vast improvement before this, when i, no, dad, would buy sweet valley twins books… *cringe*

  4. hi dear,
    i bookmarked your blog inside my books & readers group among sharon, ted, eric and lydia and many more. i enjoy the way you vent out your anger towards the thing i sometimes despise, it’s so funny 😀
    i hope you don’t mind, but in your sentence “I do borrow books to my friends, but I always get them back in the end. ”
    perhaps you mean “lend” instead of “borrow”?
    take care, keep on writing!

  5. Hi Laydiefa! Thanks for adding me! Yes, excuse me for that little error… it’s corrected now. 🙂

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