Thursday, November 13, 2008

Booking Through Thursday--Why Buy?

I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?

Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?

If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?

As some of you know, I grew up in a library. For the first eighteen years of my life, they were all around me--not just because I worked with them almost everyday, but because my mother bought books for herself, and they were around me when I was walked into the apartment. As I grew up, having books around me was just another definition of being home.

As I grew old enough to start mentally planning my own home, one of the things highest on my wish list was a room just for books. I've got that. One entire room of my house is filled with bookshelves and books, a comfy recliner, a small table, and a lamp. My books are categorized and alphabetized. When I see them, I know that I'm home.

My moving to Phoenix marked the first time that I was completely out of a library system, and it felt strange. A part of me was disconnected. I went to the main branch of the Phoenix Public Library system, noticed that it had greatly curtailed hours of operation for summer (this was in the early to mid-1970s before Phoenix really became a Big City), got my library card, and started to browse. That's where I hit my first snag. I didn't think my reading tastes were that out of the ordinary, but it seemed they were. I went several times with a notebook filled with all the titles of the books I wanted to read. I was lucky if I found one or two. Not acceptable! That was when I became a real book buyer and not a book borrower.

Being a book buyer actually fits my reading habits more closely. I am a mood reader, and in my constant gathering of authors and titles to read, I can be easily sidetracked. If I buy the books I know I want to read, it doesn't matter if it takes me months or years before the mood actually strikes to pick one of them up and read it. The few times that I checked books out of the library here, I often found myself taking books back before I'd read them in order not to accrue fines.

Gone are the days when I kept every book I read. I have no interest in buying a much bigger house. I love this house, so the books have to fit this floorplan, and I refuse to have them piled everywhere. I don't turn on the lights at night when I'm walking from Point A to Point B, so I don't want to run the risk of stubbing toes and causing avalanches. I joined Paperback Swap this summer. I've already sent over 200 books to new homes through this service (and gained about 100 new additions to my own library). I check each book I want to set free against the PBS database. If there are already many copies of a book in their system, I put it in a bag for donation. Those donation bags are given to the library and local nursing homes. I'll still buy the books that I can't get my hands on through Paperback Swap or through publishers. I'll still have a room in my house devoted to my friends...books. As Thomas Jefferson said, "I cannot live without books." It just took me a while to find a happy medium between collecting and sharing.

If you'd like to read more answers to this fun meme, just click on the Booking Through Thursday logo at the top of this post!


  1. Glad to see another book buyer! I just moved to a bigger house, one that has a room that will become a library. I'm excited! I'm sure at some time in my life, once I'm older and kids have come and gone, I'll have to move to a smaller house and give away books, but for now, I'm happy.

  2. I'm always buying books. I buy them because I want to have them, period. I like to maintain a history of my reading over the years. There are so many good literature out there that have been overlooked by readers that after the first, or second printing they will go out-of-print. I'm always buying and preserving what I enjoy reading.

    On a side note, I also maintain a shopping list in my notebook. I have resisted the electronic reading device and have sticked with hard copies.

  3. Oooo, I love organization! Here's my answer.

  4. Ack! I wrote a nice long comment, then lost my network connection on the laptop - argh!

    Quick answer: I love the description of your home library.

    I borrow and buy (I don't beg or steal:) )

    I also stockpile books so I'll have whatever I'm in the mood for when I'm in the mood!


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