Are you ready for a really privileged post?
I want to have a dialogue about this, because it’s something I think about a lot. And this conversation won’t apply to a lot of people, obviously, because we are all nice people here.
So I’m going to start off like this:
I have about 700 books in hard copy. I am fully aware of how amazing that is. I am aware that there are people with bigger personal libraries – I’m also aware that many, many people have smaller personal libraries. I am aware that I am privileged because I live in the United States. I have access to a lot of books that are more difficult to acquire outside the US.
I am lucky for the opportunities I have and I am grateful.
Throughout the last three years, I’ve seen discussion pop up in the community – especially on Twitter. Bless Twitter, it’s such an angry place. Book Twitter gets stuff done, but it is angry. There has been a lot of judgment about people like me who are “Book Rich”. I’m hoping this doesn’t come off as overly snobby, but these kinds of dialogues can be hurtful to people who put their time and sweat and blood (paper cuts are a real menace!) into amassing large book collections.
The perspective gets easily jaded. I think, sometimes, that the bitterest of these people imagine immaculate libraries with shiny new hardcover books that are always pre-ordered. I do understand that this niche of the blogging world has a lot of young adults, and as such, the option to buy hoards of books just isn’t there. And international bloggers – I know you don’t have the same opportunities I do. But I think it’s fair to say that a lot of us are being thrifty about this.
So, for the next time Twitter gets upset about how unfair it is that certain bloggers seem to be able to buy all the books… I want to talk to you about my personal library.
So. I want to hit at the the heart of it first, because I feel like whenever large personal libraries appear on the Twitterverse, they’re a step behind people complaining about how hard it is to get ARCs.
I do not ask publishers for hard copy ARCs.
I do, however, have some hard copy ARCs.
All the hard copy ARCs I have ever received come from once source, and one source alone: LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. I don’t even enter Goodreads giveaways anymore. The single exception to this rule is my ARC of Ace of Shades, which I won in a giveaway as part of Amanda Foody’s promo team last year. I don’t ask for hard copy ARCs and I don’t enter Goodreads giveaways for a couple of reasons – the biggest one is simply that I know if I want it badly enough, I can buy the book. I want to leave those copies in the wild for bloggers with fewer opportunities than me. While I really enjoy getting to read a book before the rest of the world and getting excited to share it with you all, I’m not a collector and I don’t have a Wishlist. I’m not looking for these books for keeps – most of my hardcopy ARCs are passed on after I buy a personal copy of the ones I loved.
So, first point, not everyone is stocking their collections with all the hard copy ARCs and keeping them out of the hands of less privileged bloggers. LibraryThing puts books in my hands I haven’t even heard of, because they tend to get smaller presses. Those authors? I want to give them the publicity, but I’m not sure I’m ready to jump on the train yet and spend money on their books.
But clearly I must be a millionaire to buy so many books, right?
90% of my collection is second-hand. Maybe more than that. Hand me a book, I can tell you where it came from. In January, I hauled about 50 books from Thrift Books – it cost me about the same amount as 5 brand new hardcovers. At Thrift Books, all the books are secondhand and they start at $3.79 a pop. I’ve found that I can suffice with hardcovers in “good” condition or better, but paperbacks need to be “like new”. If you ever see a big book haul from me, it’s like that.
The other thing is… books are my number one priority.
I pay my bills, my husband and I budget for vacations… but after that, my “fun fund” is all about books. I don’t go to concerts, I don’t replace my phone unless it’s broken. I don’t buy a new wardrobe every season. I think that everyone has a priority thing they use what little extra they have to buy. For me… that’s books. That’s why my library is so big. Every time I can, I add books for my collection. I budget for them.
And I read them. My books are not just for show.
Again, I do want to say that I understand that I am very privileged. I have a job that pays well enough that I have extra to spend on books. I live in such a place that I am able to have easy access to books. I have opportunities to buy books secondhand. There are a lot of people in this community who don’t have those opportunities. I can see how a post like this can feel like I’m shoving my good fortune in someone’s face.
I just… I wish people didn’t attack one another for the size of their book collection? Goodness knows, it’s not like we’re stealing it from one another. We all have different priorities and opportunities. Unless you’re reading this post or you check in with my Great Bookcase Crusade, I don’t really talk about my massive collection of books much? But. If you, dear followers, feel like I rub this in your face in a regular basis PLEASE (genuinely!) let me know? I can take my haul out of my monthly updates.
I’m eternally grateful to have never been personally attacked for this on my blog. You folks are lovely. Really.
Do you feel people with large book collections are bragging? How can we soften our conversations and still show off our books? Let’s discuss in the comments!