Borrowing Books When You Can Afford Not To

An interesting topic came up in one of my Facebook (bookworm) groups.

The topic in question went something like this (edited for anonimity/clarity):

“Out of curiousity, does anyone borrow books from the library? I’m wondering why would someone choose to purchase books when one can just walk in a library, borrow it, and return it, get another, all without costing a dime.”

In all fairness, I think there’s nothing wrong with it at all. Nothing, zero. Well, one, the idea of sharing knowledge. Two, the idea of making use of a public facility while enriching yourself along the way.

Okay. Here comes.

Let me entice you into trying a little experiment.

First, imagine if everyone did that.

Now, try to imagine yourself as the author. One who spent at least two years of your life writing it, and another two struggling with getting it published, or noticed, even.

How does that make you feel?

Proud and accomplished, maybe. But unlikely for most writers who aren’t national let alone international bestsellers.

Wait, I probably went too far with that. Let’s try – Getting at least ten 3 to 5 star reviews (verified purchases) on sites like Amazon and Goodreads. Or feeling like a failure upon seeing your first 1 or 2 star rating.

Then, there’s convincing your book agent to promote your book, and perks like giving away free copies etc., likely out of your own pocket or deduction from unforeseeable royalties.

I think I’ve made my point, a little, at the very least.

Anyhoo. My response to that post was this (verbatim):

Personally I prefer to own the books, and also I feel better about paying the authors for their writing and especially wisdom. If we can afford to buy, I say go for it. Imagine if an author’s book is being passed around all the time. How does he or she make a living? Just my two cents. I still believe in the importance of libraries and why we need to keep it alive – for those who need it more than we do.

I was lucky that I got three “likes”. Phew! That was a relief, knowing this is Facebook – the cockfighting ring of opinions. It wasn’t so much about having someone on my side but more about how no one felt the need to challenge me. I would estimate that around 80% of the responses were pro-library, and the other 20% loosely made up of people who simply preferred to own books, take their time with books, and those who have little to zero access to a decent library system.

One comment in particular caught my attention irked me. The person seemed clueless condescending as to why some people would take weeks (5 to 6) to read a book. I guess some people will forever be stuck in their own superior bubbles, unaware of other people’s reading habits or simply the lives they lead that prevent them from finishing a book in a “normal reading pace”.

(I couldn’t locate the above comment. It’s buried in too deep with 100+ others by now!)

I found it! (Edited for clarity purposes):

How much time do you guys need to read these books? Most libraries give you books for two weeks and you can renew them many times, I think six weeks is the max you can have it out without physically bringing it in to renew it when it’s on a two-week program. [sic] Now I can understand if you’re trying to read Gone With the Wind or War and Peace but does it really take more than 2-6 weeks to read a book?

Yeah, so there’s that. But here’s a comment, not in reply to the condescending one above, though I think it should have (verbatim):

When I am working full time it may take me a month to read a book. That’s why.

Anyway, moving along…

Here’s one that I could relate to (verbatim):

I like books in my home. I love the look and feel of shelves and shelves of books. I also like not having to worry about due dates. I love being able to get up and at any time of the day, any day of the week go to my shelves and grab a new book.

Here’s a pragmatic one, my kinda book friend (verbatim):

I would like to borrow more often from libraries but to put a ‘request’ or ‘hold’ on a book costs money. Also, for the popular/in demand books, you will be waiting forever to borrow. Life is too short, so it’s either second hand book shops or Amazon.

Then I found an even more pragmatic one (verbatim):

I buy used then re sell. Have my own personal library at my fingertips and read at my pace with no deadlines. And I’ve made $100 so far this year!

Here’s another with similar note. The following comment (or situation) shows how their libraries are being really kind generous to the people, although I would suggest prefer the libraries would instead point it to buying eBooks, assuming that they are trying to ask readers to save trees, not money (verbatim):

One of my libraries finally start doing that thing where they tell you how much money you save so far by checking out books instead of buying them. I absolutely love it. They just start doing it over the summer and I’ve already over $800 just on my library card not counting my kid’s cards.

To cap it all off, here’s a comment which likely came from a first world, privileged, taxpaying resident (verbatim), one that would probably be living in the same neighborhood as the first one (above) which prompted this entire thread in the first place:

Our public library has all kinds of services for readers, from physical books to borrow, to many computerized sources. In the library itself, there are study carrels, a bank of computers, research associates and all kinds of borrowing methods. Books can be reserved, ordered from other libraries or just read there, in the lounge area. They have DVD’s, Large Print books, music CDs, microfilm resources, printers, a children’s zone, a teen zone and meeting rooms, even job searching services. My library is community resource, all for free and open to all.

Regardless, that’s my take. And I hope more people, in particular people who could afford to purchase books (hardcover, paperback, eBook, audio), would do it in a heartbeat. The more we appreciate pay our authors, the more writers would be empowered with the courage to publish their work and get the credit they rightly deserve.

You know where I stand. Here’s a condescending summary:

If you can afford it, buy it, rent it. Support the authors, albeit monetarily. Try not to crowd the system, let others enjoy the (free) resources because chances are they might need it, not just appreciate it (because I know you do, too) – more than you do.

p.s. Individual’s names of comments were removed not included for anonimity purposes. If you stumbled upon this post and feel violated, or feel the need to be credited, please get in touch with me via the contact form. I will delete/credit you where necessary. Thank you.

p.s. I know there are people who would argue over “You’re not famous, better let your unknown book roam for free in libraries so that at least someone would notice you and pick you up and then maybe you can worry about people buying your books.” Seriously. Let’s not go there. Not for now.

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