John DeNardo posits here that there are two types of book buyers — Hunters, who know exactly what they want and enter a bookstore or library to find it, buy it, and leave; and Gatherers, who browse around to see what catches their interest. Of course, either sort may occasionally go into the opposite mode depending on the circumstances, but a lot of folks seem to fall mostly into one camp.
For me, it’s situational. Physical bookstores, especially those with used books, send me into Gatherer mode. I find myself wandering through my usual sections but occasionally being drawn into the others by an unseen tug that leads me to a strange book I either can’t stop myself from buying or stare at in amused horror and regale friends with the fact that it exists.
I’m enough of a collector now that I don’t use my local libraries (and with as many unread books as I have, it seems counter-productive), but when I was a kid I routinely checked out the maximum number of books allowed because I found so many interesting things while browsing. As a college student, going into the campus library to do research frequently resulted in me leaving with at least a couple books for my own reading (the library at the college I attended had some absolutely gorgeous older editions of novels that drew me like a moth to a flame).
Being a Gatherer has definite risks — I often joke that it’s not safe for me to take a credit card into a bookstore — but it also has great rewards. I can’t count the number of books I got because they were nearby a book I was looking for specifically, or because their cover or title or subject caught my eye.
Online, though, I’m a hunter. Someone will mention a book and it will sound interesting, so I’ll hit Amazon or Powell’s and get it. I don’t really browse websites, they’re too ethereal for me to get a sense of the book.
Which type are you?