Thursday, 16 December 2010

Strategic Occult Book Purchasing Guide

Earlier this week whilst having tea with a colleague I mentioned that I was looking for another topic to post for on my blog and he responded: "How about project managing buying books?"

"What a genius idea!" came my immediate response followed by some very hurried scribbling on a pad that left my fingers covered in ink and very little on the page.

Anyway, on to the topic of how Project Management and buying occult books overlap…

The Project Management bit

In Project Management one of the fundamental ideas is that the vast majority of project has a triple constraint around it.

  1. Time
  2. Cost
  3. Scope

A poor Project Manager fails to deliver the right scope for the correct cost in the right time. A good Project Manager delivers in two out of three of these and a great Project Manager understands that if one constraint moves then there is often room to negotiate on the other two.

For example, if your boss wants a project done in half the time – will he/she be willing to accept reducing the scope of the project by half? Or how about doubling cost by bringing in contractors do help do more of the work that can be done in parallel?

Using the Iron Triangle to work out What, When and How Much?

Anyway, now that you’ve had a very brief introduction to the triple constraint (or the Iron Triangle) as I’ve heard some Project Managers refer to it as, let’s use that triangle as a tool to tackle the challenge and excitement of buying occult books.

Defining the problem domain also known as “What do you want to achieve?”

Write down the answer to these Scope questions to help narrow down your buying needs:
  1. What topics of books are you looking to buy?
  2. Is it on a range of topics of on a specific topic?
  3. Are you interested in an area that you’re already knowledgeable about or a new topic?
  4. Is it for practical advice or theoretical knowledge?
Here are some Time related questions:
  1. Are you an impulse buyer?
  2. When do you want to be holding these books?
  3. How fast do you get through a book?
  4. Are you able to set aside dedicated reading time?

And now for the final part – Cost:
  1. What is your budget for buying these books?
  2. How much effort are you willing to put in to finding the right book?
  3. How much effort will you put in to finding a bargain?

Now before I get on to the topic of internet links for finding and buying books, here are my thoughts about occult bookshops.

Occult Bookshops

My experience of occult bookshops in London (UK) is that they’re GREAT! There’s Atlantis, Mysteries, Treadwells, Watkins and a number of other shops that sell occult books. Here are some reasons why it’s worth spending time in an occult bookshop:
  1. People who work in occult bookshops (in my experience) have a lot of knowledge and contacts.
  2. Browsing let’s you explore the flow and exchange of ideas from one occult category to another
  3. Notice boards in occult bookshops are useful for contacts and courses
  4. Some bookshops hosts talks which are a superb way to meet like-minded people

One time I was in Atlantis bookshop and a man who’d been browsing books turned to the lovely lady serving behind the desk and asked why there were not more bookshops like Atlantis in the United States. The lady behind the desk smiled and answered that running an occult bookshop requires having a vast range of knowledge of different topics and that finding staff to meet such needs is very challenging.

(Alan Moore's "Unearting" for sale for £50 at Treadwells)
Treadwells, a bookshop that I rate highly for its friendly staff and awesome lectures & courses, has a course set-up to train both its staff and others who are interested in gaining such a breadth of knowledge of occult topics.

Summary of tips and techniques:
  • Go with a plan of what you want to buy and how much you can afford
  • If you’re looking for a bargain, consider looking up comparison websites such as Froogle
  • If you use Amazon, add a book to your basket instead of your wish list but SAVE IT FOR LATER. That way when you next go to your basket, it will inform you if the price has gone up or down.
  • Always look up the author of a book before buying it, the other books that they’ve written will give you more information about their expertise on the book’s chosen topic
  • Get advice in an occult bookshop or consult with someone whose opinions you value
  • Take online reviews on Amazon, etc with a pinch of salt. Bear in mind the number of reviews and the spread of reviews (e.g. ten people gave 5 stars, three with 2 stars and nothing in between)
  • If you’re in a shop and there’s no one around who can advise about whether a particular author is recommended or not – if you have your phone with you and have internet access, then look them up online and look for book reviews online.