Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Are The Generation That Bought More Books, And You Get What You Deserve

Today's BTT question asks:

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?

I'm not much of a collector, I'm a fan of libraries, and I'm cheap to boot. I don't usually buy my books (though for the sake of authors, I'm glad somebody does). But you're right, I do have a few permanent residents on my bookshelf.

I say I'm not much of a collector, but I do keep poetry books (as I like to refer back to certain poems from time to time) and books about either the Arctic or Newfoundland. I'm passionate about these 2 places and so, when people want to know more, it makes me happy to have them available to share. There have been a few favourites not in these categories that I've kept as well (Blindness is one).

My reasons to finally break down and buy?

1. Too new- the library doesn't have it and I'm impatient for them to get it

2. Too rare- the library doesn't have it and I'm impatient for an interlibrary loan

3. Deadlines- I was part of a "real-life" bookclub and needed to have it read on a certain date. The library's copy was either out or non-existent.

4. Causes- A lot of my books are 2nd hand, bought at used booksales and the like, in which I'm usually happy to support whatever cause the proceeds are headed for. Plus they're reasonably priced, for a change.

The last book I bought at a store was the Zachariah Wells edited sonnet anthology Jailbreaks due to reasons #1 and 2 above. How about you?


SmilingSally said...

Even though I answered differently, I am much like you. Here's my answer.

Anonymous said...

I don't buy a lot of books either and when I do buy books they are usually not new. The last one I bought for myself was Adam Bede by George Eliot and it was 56 cents at Goodwill. I do buy books as presents and I almost always pay full price for them. The last book I actually bought is a Christmas present for my husband. It's "The Heirloom Tomato" by Amy Goldman. I heard her speak last week and the pictures from the book were so wonderful I knew I just had to get a copy for my husband who is a tomato lover.

I keep a few books that have sentimental value like the tattered copy of Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land that I've had for 40 years. But since I discovered BookCrossing I am happy to let most books pass through my hands once I have read them.

darsh said...

Why I buy books rather than borrowing them from the library? Simply because I suck at returning them! Our library is so lavish because of all of the late fines I've had to pay them. Plus, I figure if I borrow the book... I'll probably keep it until the book fines for it double the actual price of the book and hence it is more practical to just buy it instead. :-)

John Mutford said...

Smilingsal: You had mentioned the Bible and Shakespeare in your answer, and yes, I own actual copies of those as well. Does the library even lend out the Bible?

Gypsysmom: I'm probably one of the few people that doesn't try to find the pristine copies at used book sales. While I don't want it if pages are falling out, I love copies that have notes written all over it. I sort of feel connected to the last reader (or student, in some cases).

Darsh: Believe it or not, the last 2 places I lived didn't have late fees at the library. You just couldn't borrow a new one if you had any overdue. However, here in Yellowknife there are late fees, and yes, I too suck at returning them. This was always an issue with me at videostores as well, whicj is why I joined (no late fees). Unfortunately, they don't lend books.

Jo-Ann said...

I not only work in the public library system I use it too. But your reasons 1 and 2 are usually why I buy a book. I also like to have a book to reread at anytime. I have a collection of story books that I use for programing at the library so I am not always holding back a library copy.
I also am a beader and what to have beadwork books as a resource for projects.
I also still have a number of books that I have kept from my childhood (Narnia, Tolkien and Montgomery).

John Mutford said...

Jo-Ann: Lots of other BTT participants said they bought them to reread as well. I've never been a big rereader, so that's almost a non-issue for me-- with the exception of poetry and the rare stand-out as I've mentioned in the post above.

I should also have mentioned children's books. We do buy A LOT for our kids, and again it comes down to rereading. They have no problem hearing a story over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

When I was young, and on my own for the first time, I bought most of the books I now have on my book shelves. And I did reread those books.

But time seems to have sped up so much in the decades that have passed (or perhaps we have more distractions than we used to), so that I rarely ever reread anything anymore. So now I use the library almost exclusively, except when I have the chance to get to a good used book store.

Good question, John.

SmilingSally said...

I used to work as a library clerk. Yes, the library does have a Bible on the shelves!

Anonymous said...

I can never part with my poetry books. A few I got as old as 1889 from my grandfather's collection. I herish those leather bound books.

Must buy!

Melwyk said...

I rarely buy new; since we had a second hand shop for years and now sell online as well, I have tons and tons of books at home. For newer books I use the library heavily, as I work there and it's very handy for me. I like it because then I don't have more volumes collecting on the shelves at home!
And yes, there are many versions of the Bible available at the library -- and did you know that the bible is the most stolen book from public libraries?

Anonymous said...

I buy. I buy thousands of books both for myself and as gifts for others. I buy new and I buy secondhand. In numbers, I probably buy about the same number new as used which means I spend more on new.

I buy new, usually hard covers, as soon as I can upon their release (before they are 30% off at Chapters or McNally's even knowing that they likely will be reduced in a couple of weeks) because I love the experience of the book, the smell of it, the feel of it in my hands and the sense that I am the first one, the only one, to whom the author is speaking - even if I do let it sit on my shelf for years before I actually read it.

I buy new because it is the only way I know of to tell the author that I value the time and the labour and the love that went into their work and that I want them to be able to make a living at what they do and that I want them to continue to do the work that they do.

I buy new because I want the book store to continue to exist so that I can waltz in there any time I want and find or order books that interest me (and not necessarily a million other people.)

I buy used because I want the used book store to continue to exist so that I can waltz in there any time I want and browse and touch and find treasures that somehow escaped me when they were first published.

I seldom re-read. I used to buy books and then collect them on my shelves, first editions and signed copies, like other people collect knickknacks and bric-a-brac until I realized I'd likely die before I read them again and they'd be left for my children to deal with. And while there might be some that they'd want, I suspect most would be sold for pennies in an estate sale (and there wouldn't be much else to sell!) or donated in countless boxes to somewhere or other or, worse, thrown out!

So now I share. I pass on to my kids, now, books I think they will like. I've released over a thousand books into the wild, on park benches and street corners and I'm confident that they are being read and enjoyed by someone else, maybe someone who can't afford to buy books of their own or maybe someone who will discover a new author or genre and will be inspired to buy books of their own.

And while I support libraries by volunteering and buying their used books and shopping in their gift shops and paying for a membership as a Friend of the Library, I haven't borrowed a book in more than 30 years.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: I used to be more of a consumer with most goods. Not so much anymore. Yes, it was a good question, but it wasn't mind!

SmilingSal: It makes sense that there would be one there, I've just never noticed. It just doesn't seem like a borrowing sort of book.

Gautami: No, a lot of poetry stays with me too. Although, I do still check out poetry from the library.

Melanie: That's interesting. Do they steal as in sneaking it without checking it out? Or is stolen as in not returned? The latter makes sense, cause who can get through it with a normal return date?

Pooker: I do like the feel of books in my hands (though paperbacks more than hardcover), and that's why I don't see ebooks taking over. But, I get the same feel with library and 2nd hand books. As for caring if I'm the first, I'd rather daydream about what the others before had thought. Sometimes I'll pick a more obscure book from the library and see that the last person to read it was way back in the 80s. I love to think about what possessed them to take it out as well, do we have something in common, etc.

Wanda said...

For myself, I don't buy as many books as I once did. I still buy poetry (books and lit mags) both to show support for the industry and because I like to read lesser established poets. I am quite happy to receive a book as a gift but for the most part, I’m a devoted library patron when it comes to my own reading materials. I do however, love to give books as presents; already there are eleven wrapped and ready to go this Christmas. Oh and I'm sure there's a gold star by my name at Scholastic!