Thursday, November 13, 2008

Buy or Rent?

BTT 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 buy books for two reasons. I'll buy a book I've already read because I love it and some part of me is simply compelled to own it. Perhaps it is a fear that it will go out of print and disappear. Perhaps it is a preemptive solution to waking up in the middle of the night and wanting to look up a passage. Perhaps it is just an irrational, totally emotional response to certain words that causes me to want them to belong to me.

Back when I didn't have much money that was pretty much the only reason I ever bought books. Otherwise I got all my books from the library.

Once I started to make some money I decided that I wanted to support authors and the best way to do that was to buy their books. After I read them I give them to people who can't afford to buy them or donate them to the book fair. I tend to buy a lot of books these days because I can - but most of them are paperback. Not that paperback books are cheap. The real test is when an author I like comes out with a new book and it is only in hardback. Some I can't resist. Louise Erdrich. A.S. Byatt. Martin Amis. I buy them automatically, sometimes sight unseen. Most others I either wait until they are in paperback or get from the library.