why i don’t buy books

I am both an avid reader and strong ideological (and actual) supporter of libraries. This is a rare combination, I feel. Most people I know who take reading or books “seriously” prefer to buy books, for various reasons. Some like to “have their own copy,” whateverthehell that means, some buy books BEFORE they read them (therefore their reading depends on their buying), some claim that they want to have them so that they can read the books over and over (which I have my doubts about), and some just don’t LIKE libraries, which comes mostly from associating them with poor people.

Anyway, I’m tired of hearing people be so proud of how they own a lot of books, and I’m tired of people thinking that people who don’t buy them somehow don’t take reading just as seriously. For these reasons, I’d like to share why I personally don’t buy books.

1. “Use it or lose it.” I think libraries are VERY important, and that the best way to support them is to need and use them.

2. The idea of “owning” books or other forms of art does not appeal to me. I also don’t understand it. I just don’t *get it* when people say they want “their own copy.” It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to be possessive of something that I believe everyone should have access to. The few books that I have, I don’t consider as “mine.” They just happen to be in my care, like children, or like the library’s books are in the library’s care. The library’s books belong to “the people,” not the library; the library is just a practical place for them to exist.

3. I try to avoid materialism, for both practical and spiritual reasons. Books are heavy and take up a lot of space; the few books I have are really a drag whenever I move (often). THINGS, in general, can become a drag emotionally, if we get attached to them (and people DO get attached to them). My dedication to minimalism stems from my conviction to save my emotional energy for stuff that matters.

4. Books are expensive. I mean, I could afford some if I wanted to, but I would rather spend my money on real-life experiences. Being aware of and prioritizing my expenses plays into #3.

This isn’t all to say that I NEVER buy books. Sometimes a book is simply not available in a community, and buying it is a way to make it available. For this reason, I bought several books in El Salvador, knowing I would not be able to find them in the United States (even on Amazon). I am also considering buying several of Toni Morrisson’s books because, after reading them, I was so moved by them that I really do intend to read them over and over, and want other people to have that chance as well (it has taken me several years to read all of her books, because libraries usually only have a few of them). So I’m not condemning anyone for buying books – I just wanted to shake up the usual “if you buy books you love reading and if you love reading you’ll buy books” assumptions.

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