Readers Obligation

I’m in love with the Library. The first job I ever applied for was a job as a Page at the Anaheim Public Library in Orange County, CA (I didn’t get it). As a teenager, books were my friends. I remember riding my bike to my local branch and devouring the Fantasy and Sci-Fi aisle.

My goal is to complete my 100 Book Challenge this year without purchasing a single book, relying completely on the Public Library and on borrowing from friends. As I was thinking about the feasibility of that goal, and the merit of doing my reading that way, a thought struck me.

The Library was a great resource for me because it enabled me to read a lot more books than I ever could have afforded while growing up. Now, though, I’m able to afford as many books as I can read. Despite this, most of what I read comes not from bookstores but from the Public Library.

This supports my reading habit, and is in keeping with my frugality, and my commitment to being a Lifelong Learner. It doesn’t support authors, though, and that’s what this post is about.

If I can afford to buy books, do I have a moral obligation to buy books? I’m passionate about literature and I don’t want authors to starve. Is this like listening to Public Radio, where the responsible thing to do is to make the choice to contribute, if I derive benefit?

The only downside, aside from the cost, is that I’m not trying to build a massive library. I don’t keep every book I read. I have a small, curated library of my favorite books. It’s pretty uncommon for a book to be added to this library, so any new purchase would likely end up as a donation. But that’s a benefit for the Library and for other readers, isn’t it?

Alright, I need feedback. What do you guys think? Am I morally obligated to buy my books?

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6 Responses to Readers Obligation

  1. Sean January 10, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    I would say that you're not obligated to buy books; that's what libraries are for. However, I am a big fan of buying books as gifts. If you read a book from the library, and it becomes your favorite, a favorite so much that others must read it also, then why not buy a copy, or a few, and give them as gifts? I think that is a great way to support the author while also enjoying your library.

  2. C. D. Eagle January 10, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    That's a great idea. I've always thought that a good gift says as much about the giver as it does about the recipient, so that fits perfectly.

    And it lets me off the hook for spending a bunch of money on books. ;)

  3. Jennifer Mabe January 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    I couldn't not buy the books. I wish I owned every book I have ever read, but I suppose that is the hoarder in me coming out. I like the idea of you buying your books and giving them to the library but Sean's suggestion is a good one as well!

  4. Kristi January 11, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    Embrace the library. That is what it is there for! My BIL gives 2nd hand books for Christmas, I love that idea.

    I do tend to feel guilty if I continually borrow books without 'gifting' the author somehow. My thinking on this swings several different ways though.

    Lately, I am making sure that if I enjoy the books, I go and give a review on Amazon.com. It helps their book standings and hopefully to sell more books with a positive review. If I'm feeling nice, I will also go to B&N and do the same thing. Plus GoodReads. :)

  5. Ben The Book January 12, 2012 at 5:31 am #

    In our house you can't move for tripping over a book. We keep them everywhere, literally in every room. If I had to rely on my local library, I'd probably cry, the selection is so poor. I used to work in a library when I was in school and I discovered that the books kept there are usually in the taste of the head librarian. Kids kept coming in and asking for the Harry Potter books, (this was when there was only 3 out and no films) and the librarian flat out refused to buy them because she didn't consider them "proper books."

    I'm such a hoarder, I don't even get rid of the books I don't like and I own multiple copies of my favourites, 4 copies of American Psycho, 5 copies of Jurassic Park, 3 copies of Moby Dick, 2 copies of 1984, 6 copies of Misery, amongst others, if I see it going cheap and I love the book, I buy it. I usually lend out the tattier copies so that no books in perfect condition get ruined by the spine breakers.

    What I would do, is that if the book is available at your local library, then lend it and if you enjoyed it, buy it for yourself or a friend who you think might enjoy it. Like renting a video back in the day, you'd only buy the movies that you liked enough to want to watch again.

    If through lack of option you have to buy a book which you can't borrow and you don't want to keep it for yourself, you could see about donating it to the library and that would support the library and the author.

  6. C. D. Eagle January 12, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Great comments. I like all of the suggestions, and stories, and details. Especially feeling free to give secondhand books as gifts. I'll definitely be doing that! All of my friends will be so disappointed. ;)

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