August 12th, 2013


Is it wrong that I avoid buying books?

A topic came up in another community that I wanted to ask here...

If you make love to read, and make a reasonable amount of money, is it morally wrong to just check out most of your books at the public library?

The reason it came up was mostly that I feel like I'm a good person because I use the public library a lot. I'm adding to the numbers of people using it, which I think helps justify it as a taxpayer expense, which helps poor kids who do not have a ton of books still get stuff to read.

Someone else saw it differently: said that I'm neglecting to support the authors whose books I'm enjoying so much.

Just to get it all out there, here are the reasons I prefer to check out books at the public library:

1) I've found that I'm MUCH more likely to read a book if it's got a "due date" associated with it. I bought way too many books that just sat on my nightstand before I vowed to use my local public library... but when I've only got 14 days with a book, I get on it.
2) I'm tired of my house being full of stuff, hate storing and moving books.
3) Printing a book out for every person who wants to read it seems ecologically irresponsible to me.
4) I'm cheap. Well and let's face it, I haven't exactly won the lottery lately, we're on a pretty tight budget. But I make more money than the average american and could set more aside for books if I chose to.
5) I just like the idea of books being shared... I even helped build a Little Free Library on my street where we just leave books out in the freaking yard. I want people from all walks of life to be able to access books all the time, and if the only way anyone reads is by using a credit card at barnes & noble then reading just won't be that accessible anymore.

I realize that an e-reader would take care #2, and part of #3 (less paper, but something else to manufacture and keep a battery charged for, boo).

And it's not like I *never* buy books... hell, there's even books that I read at the library, and realized "this is so good I must own it" or "I know someone who must have this as a gift" and that's how it goes. But what brought this up was actually a book I'd checked out for my 3-year-old daughter, she's gone nuts over it, practically memorized it from having it read to her daily for the last month, we've already renewed it once and I'm wondering whether to just buy it for her, or head back to the library to find an equally amazing book of which I know there are many (the kid already owns waaaay too many books, despite my "don't buy" philosophy).

I do want authors to get paid. I like to think that by supporting a library, a lot more books actually end up being purchased by a larger cross-section of authors. But I know when you buy a new best seller from a publisher, a lot of that money goes for them to pay the lesser-known authors too.

Maybe I should make an annual effort to buy a book or two and donate it to the library in my yard, or find some other charitable way to support authors in general, because I don't think there's anything anyone can tell me that will make me totally stop checking out library books. I'm addicted to it. But I am realizing that not everyone sees the library as a "yay for sharing!" thing and am wondering what the spectrum of viewpoints is on this issue.