December 14th, 2017

Why I buy books.

I read a lot.

People often ask me why I buy my books instead of utilizing the library. There are many reasons, not the least of which is that I once saw a man peeing all over the new fiction section at the downtown branch and was effectively put off of the idea. But, there are other reasons as well.

Today, I read this Book Riot article: I Buy Books Exclusively for These Five Reasons¬†and it struck me how people are always justifying their book purchases: “Well, I only buy used books” “I attend the library sale, but I never spend more than $5 total” “I read free / sale books on my Kindle.”

And that’s all well and good. But what about the pure, gluttonous pleasure that comes from buying a brand new book. Holding it in your hands and knowing yours are the first, perhaps the only hands, this beautiful tome will ever know. You caress it lovingly, smell the newly minted pages, trace your fingers along the deckled edges, admire the cover art, and sigh contentedly. At home, perhaps you open it immediately and begin pouring over each word. Or, perhaps you put it on your shelves, a veritable library in their own right, and allow it to wait its turn, looking over every once in a while to whisper soothingly, “soon,” both of you placated for a time.

I buy used books, I buy new books, I buy comics. I used to have a Kindle, but it felt like more digital clutter to me, I couldn’t see and sort my books in a way that pleased me, plus I enjoy the tangible connection with anachronistic media. The turning of pages, the flipping of a record.

So, what are my five reasons for purchasing books…

1. I like supporting independent stores.

Since moving to the Bay Area, I have become quite passionate about supporting independent bookstores. If I want a new book, I almost always head to Green Apple Books in the Richmond district or Moe’s Books in Berkeley. If I want used books, it’s Half Price Books (not independent, but still a great community resource), a few random East Bay spots, or Green Apple, again.

2. I buy books for their covers.

Eschewing the idiom, I actually love cover art. To create a cover that is aesthetically pleasing and representative of a story is something that I admire greatly. If I see a beautiful cover, I will almost always pick the book up and will occasionally purchase it, even if I know next to nothing about it. Once a year, I do a BookDepository order and buy British releases — sometimes of books I already own — just for the superior cover art.

3. I am a collector.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than surveying my bookshelves — my kingdom, my legacy. Over the summer, my partner and I took the time to separate and color-coordinate our shelves into a rainbow of literature. Then, we had to buy another shelf for our back room to accommodate my ever growing obsession and teetering TBR pile (I, in turn, created the reading nook featured above). I have no regrets. I also enjoy collecting multiple editions of the same book, Pride and Prejudice or The Great Gatsby come to mind as novels I own duplicates of.

4. I buy “hard to find” translations / foreign literature.

You never know when something “unpopular” might go out of print or suddenly become hard to find. So, I tend to pick up books that are released from foreign publishers, especially when they are in short stock, or anything by my favorite smaller presses.

5. I like to read what’s coming out now.

Yes, I could wait. I could wait for the book to come available at the used bookstore, I could put myself on the library waiting list after 20-30 others. But I am a woman not known for her patience when it comes to things I want. I like to be on the cutting edge of new fiction — in part because I teach literature and in part because I like to know what’s happening at this very moment in the creative world of writing — so, I pre-order new releases and join book subscription services in order to keep myself swimming in a deep pool of new fiction.

So, yes. I buy books. Sometimes at full price. Sometimes for beautiful covers without knowing anything about the books. Sometimes for deckled pages and lovely typefaces. Sometimes sight unseen because I love / respect the author or publisher. Sometimes simply because it’s new and shiny. #sorrynotsorry