buying books

Buying Books and Never Reading Them

You buy a lot of books. That’s okay. Admit it. I have. It’s a good thing until you realize that you have over half of the books you buy end up on a bookshelf unread. Still, it’s okay, really. It is far better to buy books than overly expensive videogames, random Home Depot impulse binges, and, umm, stuff like Hummel figurines. Plenty of people spend their money buying and collecting all sorts of consumer products. We should be proud that our impulse buy item is a well-designed and intriguing new book. That new book smell… oh man.

Indeed, it might be a problem but thankfully we are not alone. In Japan, it’s gotten to a point where a term as been defined to embrace the phenomenon. Tsundoku, as in the act of buying and letting books pile up in various areas of your domicile where they become more a means of decoration. Maybe that’s not what we really intend on doing when we buy a handful of books at a local bookstore, buy another handful at a used bookstore, and finish it off with a few Amazon purchases, but we are certainly working towards a decorative sculpture of unread literature.

Having a name for the book-buying impulse definitely helps but there are also plenty of other reasons to continue indulging in the act of buying books with no immediate intention of reading them. I have composed a list of ego-stabilizing reasons to continue tapping into that inner bibliophile despite the fact that, oh, I don’t know, maybe half or more of your bookshelves consist of books that you’ve barely begun to read. Consider these coping strategies.



*You support the book.

This is the age of technology seeping into an industry normally oblivious to all those 1s and 0s. By buying the book, you are buying the book. It is full of pages, has a spine, and a cover that resonates that beauty. Holding it in your hands feels a whole lot like a book whereas an eReader feels a whole lot like holding a screen made to imitate. You buy the physical book, you own the best version.

*You are buying art.

How many books have you wanted to buy just because that book cover looked beautiful? Well, if you buy a book for its cover, you are essentially buying into a piece of art. Don’t discount the words between the covers but the cover is often a pivotal part of the book and, more often than not, the cover is given little to no notice despite its effective draw for consumers.

*You are buying upwards of 60,000 words or more per novel.

That’s a lot of words. Imagine how many clicks of the keyboard it would translate to and plenty more effort if the author maintains use of a typewriter. The author laid out so many sentences that you could easily assume that each sentence led to a different avenue of thought. So many words don’t just end up on the page without the effort of each press of the key. To press the key, think about what gave the author motivation. It is different for every single writer but it’s enough to give solace in the fact that you bought their latest book. You bought their book. A “thank you” might be in order.

*You are starting a chain of ownership.

With the purchase of a book, you are knowingly taking part in the daisy-chain lifecycle of a book. After the book outlasts its time with its initial owner, it will be sold to a used book store or Goodwill to be recovered by another bibliophile. The book is owned for a period of time only to end up with another dealer and, subsequently, another owner. By buying a book brand new from its publisher and/or bookstore, you are engaging this ongoing lifecycle.

*You support the press.

Much like the author, buying a brand new book supports the efforts of the author’s publisher. There is a lot of work that goes into making that book look so very nice to eyes and to the touch. The publisher goes out of its way to make the book meet those expectations while also making sure that the book treats its author well with positive sales. You bought the book. You are doing your part.


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September 19th, 2013 / 11:00 am