Monday, September 24, 2007

Buyers' Remorse

I buy a lot of self help books. I spend lunchtimes browsing the self-help section of Borders and I get a tingle when I see a new one that looks promising. I pick them up knowing how I should examine them; read the index, read about the author to establish their credentials, look for chapter headings and diagrams, read the back cover for testimonials. And sometimes that's exactly what I do.

But sometimes the title or the promise ("Transform Your Life", "Find Your Purpose")creates such a positive emotion that I am going to buy it no matter what my examination reveals.

Sometimes the emotional reaction leads to a good purchase. Mostly it doesn't and I end up reading the same tired self-help cliches for a few chapters before I throw it aside. And it's then that I get buyer's remorse a horrible feeling for someone who prides himself on making rational choices. I don't want to feel that emotion very often in the future but I suspect I will.

Most self-help books are full of platitudes, are overly-long or are written by people who are poor role models for success so I'm likely to experience buyer's remorse again.

So what can we can do to reduce the risk?

Here are my top tips:

1. Spend 5 minutes mentally interrogating the author ("If you are such a massive success why did you sell your book to Crud Publications?" "How long have you been teaching this stuff?"

2. Ask yourself "If I could only take 20% of my library with me if my house burnt down would this book be in my hand?"

3. Check the contents page, chapter headings, diagrams etc for things that interest you. Then do a sample read of a section that looks promising.

4. Promise yourself that you will never buy a book without checking Amazon or other online reviews.

5. Make it a rule to give away or sell a self-help book everytime you buy a new one.

6. Think about a self-imposed fast for a month/6 months/12 months.

You never know - I might even take my own advice.


Bunk said...
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Bunk said...

I found your blog through a internet link and really enjoyed this post. I agree with checking with Amazon reviews. Usually the readers on there are knowledgable enough to steer in the right direction

Anonymous said...

I especially liked #4, about checking Amazon reviews first. Be sure to read through the majority of them, since Amazon organizes them with the best ratings as the most viewable.

To save money on self help books, consider buying used copies; it's the same information whether the book is used or new. Amazon and Froogle are the best places I've found for locating the cheapest books.

Good post, Andrew.

Bentley Fitch

Andrew said...


Thanks for your comment.

I agree about used books. I've recently found There are some very cheap used copies on there. The best part is that sometimes they have books that you cannot get on Amazon or where there is a long delivery time.