Buy or borrow?

20:30, Mar 25 2013

Do you buy or borrow your books?

I know people who fall firmly into the "I buy all my books" category, and then there are those who are staunch library supporters. There's an "in-betweeny" lot too, those who borrow the books initially - then buy them later when they have the funds, or if they fall badly for said books.

These days, I tend to be more of a book buyer. Mostly because I like the idea of supporting writers so they can keep producing the work that I love. I am in the lucky position of having a certain amount of discretionary income to spend on feeding my reading habit, of course. I know many of the readers of this blog have other commitments (children, mortgages), which means that they have no choice but to borrow books. 

Of course, somebody loses out either way. If all readers buy their books, then the libraries I so adore, with all their passionate librarians and many quirks, a place to shelter from the storms of the world for a while, will eventually be forced to shut down. But if we readers don't buy any books, then good bookstores (like many of the small independents, and even the awesome bigger chains like Borders...R.I.P) will close down. And of course, writers earn royalties from book sales...

I've already written about how awesome libraries are, so now I feel that I should speak up for the pleasures of book buying. Ownership gives you infinite possibilities of what you can do with a book. You can read it, lend it out, use the book as a footstool, cover the margins with notes (that will never happen to any book of mine, but I still could, if I wanted to), set fire to it, use it for voodoo rituals, and so on.

Browsing for new titles in a shop, or even online, is also a unique experience. Of course, you can browse the shelves of a library and that too is a joy, but there's a thrill that can't be replicated when you are browsing with the intention to buy. It's the difference between window shopping and actual shopping. You know, the kind where you exchange money for goods - the time-honoured traditional pastime of a consumerist society.


Then there's also the fact that I don't have to wait for popular titles, don't have to worry about late fees or renewing books if I haven't had time to read them of my favourite things ever about having shelves of books at home...I can go back and read titles whenever I want.

Over time, I've culled my collection down to books that I love and want to keep to the point that I have a nice, cosy (albeit small) home library. Someday, if I'm lucky enough to have the space to do it, I'd like to build a proper library with wall-to-wall shelving and a properly lighted reading nook. It would have high ceilings and armchairs and throw rugs, and a cat by the fire.

My home library could be one of the last bastions of print books, but I'm no techno-snob. I'd have a super-sized Kindle, or whatever the equivalent e-reader would be by that time...possibly a small chip implanted behind the ear and you turn the page by blinking.

Going back to my original point, I also like to support writers so they can keep writing. I know most authors don't actually make enough off royalties to live off, but it's not just about the money. I think knowing that readers are buying your books, that someone is interested enough in what you have to say to do that, can be the best kind of motivation for writers to keep writing.

Which camp do you fall under? Buy or borrow?

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