Tomorrow is September 7th, which as you all hopefully know by now is National Buy a Book Day.

Here’s what you do:

1. Go to a bookstore.

2. Pick out a book.

3. Buy it.

A simple, three-step process—a fairly idiot-proof way to make a simple statement:

Books are worth having.

Okay, so maybe there are a few more layers of complexity. Anyway, people seem to want to keep adding them in. These are very well-meaning people, by the way, who just want to make sure they’re doing it right, not trying not to do it. So for this year, which unfortunately hasn’t so far had quite the impact as last year, which is entirely my fault, I’d like to break those three steps down with just a bit more detail.

First, “Go to a bookstore.” What do I mean by “go”? Well, you can physically move your body to a brick-and-mortar store. This can be literally any bookstore. A big national chain like Barnes & Noble? Fine, yes. A tiny little “mom and pop” independent? Absolutely. Anything in between, like an airport bookstore, or any kind of specialty shop that, say, specializes in mysteries or Christian books? Yes on all counts. Big box discount stores like Target and Wal-Mart? Sure. How do you get there? Any way you can. Drive, walk, take the bus . . . that doesn’t matter, just get there. But what about e-books? Do e-books count? Why yes, they do. Of course they do. Over and over I’ve said that authors are content providers, and the format is meaningless compared to the writing itself. And people who sell e-books are in fact no less booksellers than people who trade in paper. So by “go,” the option of navigating to your favorite online e-book reseller (or your favorite online purveyor of print editions for that matter) also counts as going to a bookstore. Which then covers the definition of a bookstore, which for me is anyone who’s in business to sell you a book, in any format, through any means.

Second, “Pick out a book.” This can, again, be literally anything. I write fantasy, primarily, so you might be more likely to get this message through various fantasy, science fiction, and horror blogs, and as both a writer and fan of those genres I certainly encourage you to support them, but National Buy a Book Day has no such bias. You can buy any book by any author in any category or genre. Fiction, non-fiction, cook books, how-to guides, self help books, the Bible, graphic novels . . . anything. Any book will do. Last year I offered the further challenge to buy a book by a living author from a publisher still in business and you should pay full cover price. That’s sort of the Full Monty version of National Buy a Book Day, which helps guarantee the greatest support for everyone along the chain from bookseller through distributor to publisher to agent to author. But you don’t have to do that. Have a great used bookstore in town with a great old book from a century ago you’ve been dying to get your hands on? Go buy it tomorrow. It’s a book, bought from a bookstore.

And last, but not least, “Buy it.” I love and support libraries in every form in every community, but this is not National Borrow a Book Day. I need you to spend money. You need to buy a book. Does that mean you have to pay full cover price for a hardcover? No. A mass market paperback will do. Going back to that used bookstore, you can probably find great old books for less than a dollar. Hell, a 99-cent e-book is a book you’re buying, too. Found something awesome in the remainder bins for $1.99? Buy it! Got a coupon? Use it. Just in some way, for any amount, hand (literally or digitally) someone some money tomorrow in exchange for a book.

People have asked me this question, which I love: “Can I buy more than one book?”

You bet your life you can. The more the merrier.

I make it a family affair. The four of us go together and everyone picks out a book.

Have kids? Nephews or nieces? Bring everybody, and shell out a couple extra sheckles for the little ones. Buying books is the kind of habit you should instill in your kids. Books will make them smarter, and your support of books now will help insure that they’ll grow up in a world with books in it.

I’m still in the process, which as I’ve reported here is turning out to be rather lengthy and complex, of establishing the National Buy a Book Day Foundation. I fully intend that when September 7, 2012 rolls around I’ll be a lot better organized, the word will have gone out in more than a few friendly social media sources, and National Buy a Book Day will really be on its way to becoming a truly national event. But for this year, you get to say you were supporting National Buy a Book Day when it was still a tiny little grassroots movement. And all you have to do is buy a book.

Not a bad deal.

—Philip Athans

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. This is a great idea! Count me in.

  2. Ellamir says:

    Make that international 😉 Heard about this via so we’ll remember that the 7th/Sept is the day to #comprarunlibro 😀
    cheers, Tam

    • Pat Whitaker says:

      Excellent idea, and definitely promote it as international – the writing world and book market is very much one world now. Sadly, it’s already tomorrow here but I’ll overlook than and participate.

  3. I love this idea! I just got back from my local Barnes & Nobles and I just purchased a Kindle book. I am going crosspost this on my blog to spread the word. Thanks for doing this!

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