Books: buying vs. borrowing

As a reader, I like the idea of buying books to read, keep, and savor. As a writer, I like the idea of buying books to support other writers. But as an environmentalist, I know I should use the library. The struggle between wanting to support an author and wanting to consume less is a tricky one. What’s a writer or reader to do?

I rarely buy new books but stock up on good reads at yard sales. The books are gently read, cheap, and often fairly recent. If I need reinforcements, I head to my neighborhood used book store in Cambridge where a bunch of local authors and reviewers bring their review copies; I’ve made plenty of serendipitous finds on their display table of carefully selected books. On birthdays and at Christmas, I ask for the ones I’d really like to own, but even that list has been dwindling since I don’t tend to reread books; I’m a sucker for a pretty cover though like Eventide, The Museum Guard or Julie & Julia, so those I knew I had to have. I’m almost relieved when a favorite author comes out with a new book donning an unappealing cover. Well, I can’t own that, I think.

If everyone opted to borrow books from the library, eschewing new books (and in a crumbling economy, indulgent purchases like new books are the first to go), I fear the book industry would collapse. And I can’t be responsible for that. I have no idea what the answer is, so I think I’ll just stick to my matrix of book buying and borrowing that takes into consideration desire, permanent collection essentialness, the cover’s aesthetics, and the weather, because if it’s a sunny day, then I’m going out in search of a yard sale with a whole tumble on books on someone’s front lawn.

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