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Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Discussion: Are You a Book Reader or a Book Owner?

I am borrowing this week's Monday Discussion from a discussion that took place in multiple places on the web last week.  I will begin by pointing you the The Book Bench, The New Yorker's book blog where I first encountered it:
There is a growing distinction between the book reader and the book owner. The book reader just wants the experience of reading the book, and that person is a natural digital consumer: Instead of a disposable mass market book, they buy a digital book. The book owner wants to give, share and shelve books. They love the experience. As we add value to the physical product, particularly the trade paperback and hardcover, the consumer will pay a little more for the better experience.
This quote from John Mankinson, the C.E.O. of Penguin Group sparked a lot of discussion last week.  It struck a chord with me personally too.  Click through to read more if you are interested.

I used to be a book owner.  I would buy every book that I read.  Now, I barely buy anything.  I borrow everything I can, from books to movie to audiobooks all from the library.  And it is not just because I work at the library.  I am in my local library multiple times a week.

It is not just a money issue; although with the amount of books my family goes through in a year, it would quickly become a money issue (meaning we'd have none left).  But, I see it as a good use of my tax dollars.  I live in Cook County, IL and we have some of the highest taxes in the country.  However, we have some of the best services to go with those taxes.  In particular, the libraries in Northern Illinois are some of the best in the country.  Why not use those great services? I read and read and read for no extra money beyond what I have already paid in my taxes.

But there is also a larger issue here.  When I was younger, owning books made me feel good.  I had few things which were mine and mine alone.  Books were something that I already had a deep connection with and could own completely.  Owning books help to fill an emotional need.  Now, with a house, a husband, and two kids, I still love to read just as much, but I appreciate simplifying where I can.  I do not have room in my house to own every book I have read, nor do I have the desire to own them anymore.  I want to posses the book as I am reading it, but I also am happy to give it back when I am done and begin a new journey with another book.
That is not to say that I never buy myself a book.  I do, but it is usually for a specific reason, again with an emotional attachment.  For example, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Ken Burns.  I spent a year studying his work, specifically Civil War and Baseball, so obviously, I own the coffee table books that go with those series.  Recently, I also purchased the companion book for National Parks.  These are books I love to own as they remind me of my past; again, they fill an emotional need.

So for today's Monday Discussion, are you more of a book reader or a book owner?  Why?

To view or participate in past Monday Discussions, click here.


Jackie, BPL Youth Servies said...

Yes, I am the classic book owner...even though I work at the public library! I can't exactly put my finger on the reason though. I do have a room dedicated to books at my house...it is MY room, my library. I love being surrounded by books, especially those I've felt a strong, emotional connection to at some point. That is not to say I don't borrow from friends or the library. Right at this moment, I think I have six books stacked up waiting to be read and returned to the library.

Maybe someday, I will be a borrower only. I certainly believe in the concept and I am happy that others believe in it, too. But, for the moment, I am giving into my passion for owning books. :-)

John BPL RA said...

I am a book owner. Antique volumes in good condition are not only a sound investment, they are an artistic joy. To view the illustrations, enjoy the out-of-print content and marvel at the archaic, poetic use of language is not something you'll want to experience only once. I do read many more books than I buy but that says more about the books themselves than it does about my buying habits. Some books, unfortunately, are meant to be forgotten. Others are meant to be owned, kept and loved.

Mike BPL REF said...

Mike, BPL REF,

I am both a reader and an
owner. Admittedly, working in a library has impacted my desire to
purchase most of what I read, but
I do come across some books that I deem special enough that I want to own.

My acquisitions are mainly
unusual, coffee table type books on a wide range of subjects. I enjoy collecting art books, history
books and books that combine either
cds or dvds along with the print. These seem worth keeping to me because they are unique and are books you can browse through over and over. I rarely have ever gone back to a novel, a history or biography that I have already read
but owning books with rare paintings, illustrated histories of different eras, etc. can be reread often and shared with others.

Several good examples of what I mean would be a book I own of presidential speeches with text and cds of the actual recordings, a
book of record breaking moments in sports combined with a dvd showing them and a book of broadcasts from London during World War II with text describing events and a cd of the announcers' broadcasts at the moment the battels are being fought.

I respect the fact that many readers enjoy owning the copies of books that have meant alot to them.
I am that way with movies. But I find that once I have read a book
I usually consider it a one time, special moment and don't have the desire to read it again or own it.

rebecca said...

Lovely sentiments, Becky. I too am a reader, not an owner. I do like to own copies of my very favorites, but if I buy 1 or 2 books a year, it's a lot. This is the problem I have owning a Kindle, my husband thought it was a great gift bu my response was, "but I don't BUY books!!!". Can't wait until they play nice with libraries.