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To Buy or to Borrow

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All things being equal (money, space, etc), would you rather own copies of the books you read? Or borrow them?

If neither money nor space is a concern, I would love to own all the books I’ve read and want to read, if not all the books published. My lust for books that is as visceral and addictive as that of privileged women who seek after designer haute couture, even if the book is meant to read once. A more practical reason is hygiene: I like to own (preferably new) books for my exclusive use or to share with a few special bibliophilic friends. The feelings of owing books is beyond satisfying and rewarding. The convenience of reading my own books whenever and wherever and taking as long as I need to read is important. After all, I just enjoy having my books at my own convenience. I think for me a good compromise or middle ground of buying vs. borrowing books would be to borrow the books I want to read from the library first. I support the public library by joining the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. I also make purchases from Book Bay, the library bookstore of which all proceeds will benefit the library.

10 Responses

  1. I tend to like to own my books, but that is not an iron-clad rule. I have purged my library so many times in the past 30 years, I have taken in and got rid of thousands of books. There is something to be said for the thrill of opening a new clean book for the first time, but on the other hand, sometimes I have read a library book that is tattered and very used and had the interesting feeling of wondering how many other eyes had rolled over these very same pages, had experienced enjoyment from this one physical book, and that gave me a sort of happy feeling of belonging and solidarity with other readers. I also like to borrow a book, read it, and no longer have it cluttering my life.
    I guess my answer to your rhetorical question is yes, no, maybe, always, not always, and it depends!
    Having said that, I would be lying to you if I said the idea of having a huge house with a library that could hold 20,000 volumes beautifully shelved is not a fantasy of mine!

  2. I’m very much with you on this one. Right now, space is more an issue than anything else. Sigh.

  3. I life-long library user, I didn’t buy a book for myself — for my own reading, rather than for a college class, until I was 22, the summer after I graduated from college. I wasn’t given books as gifts — they were the thing you got from the library for free, so why would they be something you’d own? But when I bought my first book, it was such a thrill, a thrill that hasn’t ever really diminished. I can see why you love owning books. Lately, though, I’ve wanted fewer things, books included, and so I’m giving a lot of them away after I read them. And the kindle has made a difference in how many physical books I have too. It’s an endlessly interesting topic, book ownership! Thanks for posting about it.

    Like you, I’m a friend of the SF library; and I’m a huge fan of the book bay!

  4. If money were no object I would buy anything that I fancied!! But alas that is not the case so I don’t have a problem borrowing from friends and the library.

  5. I am definitely someone who likes to own aswell. I like to go back to books and read them again and again and its easier to do that when you own them

  6. I had to chuckle when you talked about your lust for books–I can identify! 🙂

    I didn’t make it clear in my own post that I like to borrow from the library rather than friends, because I’m afraid I won’t return a friend’s book in the condition I borrowed it, etc.

    I loved your very well-expressed answer. 🙂

    Hope you’ll check mine out:
    Cindy at Cindy’s Book Club

  7. […] strengthened through reading lots of other responses, so thanks, fellow bloggers. Special thanks to A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook for the mention of supporting his local […]

  8. I would agree with you. If I had more space I would love to own books. I had a pretty good size library started but now it is seriously depleted after I made a major donation to my local library in preparation for my move to a small space a few years ago!

  9. I share this lust. I love books. Love just owning them and knowing that they are on my shelves. It’s my weakness. However, I have swallowed the 21st Century pill and am now using digital media and consuming ebooks rather than the paper variety. Having said that, there are still books that I want to own in the tangible form rather than in a virtual way. It’s a tough balance and I shudder to think about the fate of the next generation who will never know what a book is and how it feels!

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