April 12, 2012

Why I Buy Books

I actually had a recipe all ready to go, but what with the DOJ anti-trust lawsuit and a new wave of proclamations declaring the death of paper books, I've spent some time thinking about how, when, and why I buy books.

A lot of doomsayers make the assumption that people buy books to see what's inside.  I don't.  Most of the books I own, I read at a library first.  Then if I love it, I buy a copy.  Why?  If I love it, I'll want to reread it later.  If I love it, I'll want people who come over to see it and say, "Hey, what's that about?", giving me a polite opportunity to gush and loan the book out (or direct them to the library).

As I've become a parent, I love having a massive visual statement that Books Are Awesome for my kids.  They even got to "help" build our bookshelves.  I love knowing that when they're old enough to read, there will always be an amazing book nearby, waiting for them.  They won't have to charge batteries or wait for their brother to be done with the reading device or ask me.  They can just come to a shelf, grab a book, and dive in.

That said, I do buy some books before I've read them.  Often, that's because I've read the author before and I know I'm going to love it (Alloy of Law).  Other times, I'm so stinkin' excited about a book I break down and risk disappointment to enjoy that fresh-book smell while I read it for the first time (Vodnik -- which my husband keeps trying to steal).  But even then, I'm buying because the author's convinced me that I need this book on my shelf after I've turned the last page.

I don't want to spend $2.99 to consume something, then let it hide on a hard drive: e-books are, presently, a last resort for a book I can't get any other way.  I want to show books I love to other people.  I like waking up and seeing crammed bookshelves. I brought my copies of Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and The Prydain Chronicles to college with me, despite the fact the dorms were the size of a shoebox.  Sure, I could have checked them out from the massive campus library.  But that shoebox wouldn't have been home without them.  And I would have lost a lot of opportunities to start conversations about books and discover friends who loved these titles, too.

Am I an average consumer of books?  I have no idea.  But the market's a complicated place.  It includes libraries.  It includes people who prefer e-books.  And it includes people like me, who buy hardcover, even when mass-market paperback or e-books are cheaper.

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