There are two kinds of book buyers: Hunters and Gatherers.
Hunters know exactly what they want. To them, it’s just a matter of browsing to Amazon or walking into a Barnes & Noble, picking the book and paying for it. Simple and quick, it’s over faster than you can read the dust jacket.
Gatherers (of which I am one) are browsers. They stroll into the bookstore perhaps looking for something to read, or just to see what’s on the shelves. Does anything pique their interest? What are the new releases?
I think people can be both Hunters and Gatherers depending on the motive or intention. I’ve Hunted for books before, although that’s rare because the huge backlog of books ensures that I always have something of interest to read. But sometimes I do look for a newer book because either (A) others I know are also reading the book and I want to be part of an impromptu book club, or (B) I want to finish a series for which I do not yet own the book. As an example for case (A), we have Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. This was most definitely an impulse buy fifteen months ago, mostly because everyone else was on their way to a book signing to buy a copy and get it signed by the author. But as of right now, I have little desire to read it; it’s too daunting. An example of case (B) would be Foundation’s Triumph by David Brin. I had set a goal way back to read all of Isaac Asimov’s robots and foundation books (originally by Asimov and related by other authors) before the new millennium. Sure, it’s a geek thing, but hey, I’m a geek (or is it dweeb? Damn, someone really needs to tell me the difference). I achieved the goal but only because I had to Hunt for the Brin book to go along with all the other books I gathered. It’s like some innate ability allows me to adapt my shopping technique in order to consume more books.
I believe that most of the people I know are Hunters – they know exactly what they want. But what comes first, the need to hunt or the appearance of a target? Do they feel like reading a book and look for a recommendation? Or is it that they heard of a book and want to read it?
For Gatherer John, part of the fun of books is the browsing, stumbling across a good find (usually at a used bookstore – older sf appeals to me more than lots of the newer stuff). No, it makes no logical sense why I would continue to Gather when I already own more than I can read in my lifetime. But I do get enjoyment not just from reading a book, but from finding it too. So there.