Monday, 24 November 2008

Beg, Borrow or Steal

Booking Through Thursday (BTT) has asked “Why buy books”. The alternative being, presumably in most people’s case, borrowing from a library. My immediate assumption that ‘steal’ wasn’t an option actually reminded me of how many books I’ve lent to people that never got returned. Hint, hint, Irene!

When we lived in a huge Victorian house with a big study, lined on three sides with books, I bought a tremendous number of books. If I wanted to read something I tended to buy it. Often second-hand or from a charity shop but with no space problems the library was something I didn’t bother with much. I bought simply because I love owning books and if the book is on your own shelves you can read it at leisure and refer back to it whenever you want.

Nowadays with both money and space a lot more of an issue I borrow far more books than I buy. So to answer the key question, “Why buy?” I think I have five answers:-
1) the book is a key reference work (for example Chinery’s Collins Pocket Guide to Insects) which I use on an almost daily basis and could not be without. Even in these days of the Internet there are still many subjects which need a reference book;
2) the book is so beautiful or special that I simply want to own it, much as one would have a picture on the wall or a vase on the window ledge;
3) the book is one I want to read at some time but not just at this moment and I came across in a charity shop or other cheap source;
4) the book is one of series that I have collected as a series simply because I like having matching spines on the shelves;
5) the book cannot be obtained through the library. When I worked in Liverpool City Libraries in the 1960s/70s it was almost unheard of for a new book not to be purchased and the collection of old books was inordinately large. Nowadays, the cut-backs in finances for new accessions and the fact that I live in a smaller local authority, mean that there are many books not in the stock. The Inter-Library Loan system can provide some of them but by no means all.

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