Why are books so expensive? I love them so they should be free. Isn’t that the way it works?

Back when this trip was just a twinkle in our eyes and a drunken plan conceived in the pub, we figured that the first thing we had to do was save. And save. And save. I’m sure Pete will do a full post on our savings in the future, but for now, let me just tell you that the biggest expenditure I had was on books. Like I seriously spent most of my money on books. From the 2 for £5 ones I sell in work (dangerous) to £35 architecture books (expensive), there was no limit.

Me and Pete are both avid readers, so it makes sense that when we had nothing to save for, the money would go on literature, magazines and comics. Now we have a plan, so that just had to stop. Reluctantly, I did curb my spending. Though it broke my heart to do it, to cancel all of my subscriptions, to get rid of my Pick List at the local comic shop and worst of all,  to avoid wandering into book stores. Even the cheap, lovely, second-hand ones. I must avoid the temptation to use my staff discount on the books in work.

I cannot go cold turkey. Nope, the addictions too strong. I need my fix, man.

And I walked by the solution everyday. Without realising it.

Because directly across the green from where I work is the Bristol Central Library. An absolutely gorgeous building inside and out. And better yet, Books! Thousands of them. All for free! Oh, be still my beating heart.

How I had managed to forget about the library is beyond me. Some of my happiest memories of childhood were browsing the shelves of our little local one, reading book after book.

But as, I guess, an adult I grew out of them. I was too cool for libraries. I had friends now. And an independent income. I could afford to own the books I read. Oh, what ignorance. What a waste! I would buy terrible books and be forced to look at them sat there on my shelf, mocking me with their hackneyed plot lines and poor characterisation. Now, with my library card, if the book is truly dire, I can just return it and never think of it again.

It’s wonderful to just pop over there in my lunch hour, and spend my time wandering up and down the shelves, trying to figure out what to read next. The best way I’ve figured to do this is to simply go on a literary tour of the actual tour we’re planning. Y’know Isherwood for Berlin, Kafka for Prague, that sort of thing. It’s my way of preparing.

So can you imagine how long it took me to realise that the library also stores travel guides too? The answer: far too long. Like, absurdly long. To the point where Pete had to spell it out to me, that I could actually get actual travel books there. Because sometimes I’m thick.

But now, every time I go there, I always pop over to those shelves and see what’s turned up. Usually something good, a Europe on a shoe-string guide, or a tour of Krakow pocket book, or a Croatia hostel listing. Bristol library has a great collection of relatively in date ones. We tend to stick with to Lonely Planet or Rough Guide. They have clearer maps and routes to them and the information is cleanly laid out and accessible. Of course, it always helps to have a quick glance in the front or back pages and find out when it was published, so we know how far out the prices might be out. But the information about the landmarks, or history, or whatever, wouldn’t have changed that much since then and now. Supplement what we find with a quick Google and voilà, up to date!

Not only that but we can find places that are off the beaten track easier with the books. Y’know the sort of destinations that wouldn’t show up at the top of a Google search for the country, but has a entire section of the book dedicated to it. It’s both a blessing and a curse. More ideas of places to see, yay! Not enough money to do all that we want to, boo!

It’s great. These books usually cost an arm and a leg, and if someone wants to buy me one I would say no. As we do it, though, they’re free, all free! Ahahaha!

Support your local library, kids! Keeping them alive, keeps your poor traveller happy and well-read.

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