Thoughts on Buying Books vs Borrowing Them

buying vs borrowing

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion in the bookish community about what’s ‘better’; buying books or borrowing them from the library. For a long time, there’s been this common misconception that being a book blogger or a BookTuber means you have to own a lot of books, preferably hardbacks. Of course, that isn’t the case at all and I’ve also seen a lot of people assuring others that you can start a blog or a BookTube channel with very few books (or none!) as well, which is great.

However, now it seems like some people have moved over to the other extreme: if you’re only buying books and not borrowing from the library, you’re doing it wrong. They might not put it in those explicit terms, but I’ve seen multiple tweets judging people for buying books instead of borrowing them from the library, or for buying too many books because how can you ever read that many books? That rubbed me the wrong way, so I decided to write a blog post about it. In fact, I decided to do so over a month ago and here we are now with me finally doing it. Story of my life.

Anyway. There are two parts to this discussion: 1) accessibility and 2) preference and I’m going to talk about both.

Accessibility

A little backstory about me: I used to go to the library all the time. When I was a child, I borrowed most of the books I read from the library. It was cheap, it was fun – what’s not to love? However, I don’t think I’ve borrowed a book from the library in over ten years (apart from university books). There are two reasons for that: 1) I like buying and owning books (we’ll get to that) and 2) my library doesn’t own the majority of the books I want to read.

My city has a pretty big library – but my city is also a city in the Netherlands, so its library has predominantly Dutch books, while I read English books almost exclusively. Sure, my library has some English books – classics, some literary fiction and even some of the really popular YA books – but if I had to rely solely on my library for the books I want to read, I wouldn’t have read half of the books I read this year. 

Not all people have the opportunity and the privilege to be able to buy a lot of books – this is also what a lot of the library advocates say, and it’s 100 per cent true. But it’s also pretty easy to assume that everyone has access to a good library or a library that has the books they want to read. At least my city has a library. There are plenty of people in the bookish community who don’t have a public library to go to.

So, that’s part one – it’s something I wanted to mention, even though part two could have been enough of an argument on its own as well. It just drives me up the wall when people assume others have the same privilege they do. Anyway – on to part two!

Preference

Basically: please let people do whatever the hell they want to do without judging them.

People want to buy books? Let them buy books! People want to borrow their books from the library and spend their money on other things? That’s great too! It just bugs me endlessly that people always have something to say about other people’s habits.

I love buying books. I’ve got quite a few of them, though not as many as some in the community. It’s all relative, I guess: I’ve got a friend who has double the amount of books I do, but I also have friends who have only a few books. I’ve got friends who buy most of their books second hand, or who own a lot of books but borrow plenty of them from the library as well. It doesn’t matter. We’re all readers. Who cares where we get our books from (as long as we don’t steal them)?

Buying books makes me happy. Looking at my full shelves makes me very happy. If borrowing books from the library makes you happy, good for you. Here’s a thing that doesn’t make anybody happy, though: judging others for their bookish habits.

Now, let’s talk! I’d love to hear about your bookish habits: do you go to the library a lot? Do you own a lot of books? Let me know and we can chat about it in the comments!


Just a little plug since we’ve been talking about buying books: I’m a Book Depository affiliate, which means that if you follow this link and buy a book on the website, I receive a small commission (this doesn’t change anything about the price you pay for the book!).

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5 thoughts on “Thoughts on Buying Books vs Borrowing Them

  1. Great post. I agree that librarys are good if you read just about any genre but reading specific genres can be harder. I live on a small island and although we do have access to a library I haven’t joined, it’s quite small and I already have a lot of books. I read on my kindle too so not having space is not an issue, although I do like my paperbacks too. Not a huge fan of hardbacks although I do have a few.

    • Thank you! Ah, yes, I can imagine a small island can make things difficult as well. What island do you live on, if you don’t mind me asking? (If you don’t want to answer that, that’s fine too!) I hadn’t even taken ebooks into consideration for this post, but that’s obviously a great way of reading and owning more books as well. I mostly own paperbacks as well – they’re easier to read and so much cheaper! Thanks for your comment! 😀

  2. Great post! One other factor to consider is the authors themselves. Selling books is how they make their money, and while using the library is a good option when you’re trying to save money, the authors aren’t getting any extra dollars from the copy being recirculated. And even beyond that, sales in the first few weeks or months that a book is out can make a huge difference for the author in terms of future publishing contracts. In fact, some publishers will cancel series or not pick up a sequel from an author if the first book doesn’t sell enough. So, if you can afford it (and have the space), buying books is a nice way to do a solid for the writers who work so hard to create those books in the first place!

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