Being “Book Rich” and Some Saltiness

Posted April 5, 2019 by Amber in Thoughts / 14 Comments

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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 angryThere 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?

Wrong again!

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.

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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!

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14 responses to “Being “Book Rich” and Some Saltiness

  1. I have never felt like you’ve rubbed it in my face with how many books you have/get. If anything, it makes me look forward to a time when I can have the same amount. I know that once I graduate and get a good paying job, my hauls will start to look like yours and it makes me happy!

    I rarely go to concerts myself, and like you I only get new electronics when mine breaks so most of my money does go to books (what little I have of it right now).

    Also, I’m so impressed that you made your mission of the Great Book Crusade because it’s so inspiring to just…read the books that you have. Sometimes I feel bad (or like a bad book fan) for only reading the books I currently own because they came out so long ago and I feel like I should always be reading the newest stuff…but I always have to remind myself that reading is personal and different for everyone.

    Monica Laurette recently posted: The TMI Blogger Tag
    • Amber

      Oh, I”m so glad to hear it. I was a bit worried about posting this altogether. I feel like it’s an untouchable topic… one of those things where if you’re privileged, you have no right to talk about it? I actually considered pulling from my scheduled posts a couple time. 😛

      I think that old books *need* to be read or they’ll fade into oblivion. A lot of the books on my TBR were published between 2010 and 2016 and already nobody is talking about them… let alone books from twenty, fifty years ago. 🙂

  2. I think I’m a half-privileged kind of person regarding this conversation, since I’m an international blogger/reader, but I live in a place where books are quite available. English books are obviously not as much as in the US or UK, but I don’t think we’re doing very bad at it nonetheless. Yet if I say I have a collection of about 500 physical books, in today’s hasty social media world, I do sound like a privileged, inconsiderate brat. And that’s something I hate, too. It’s not rubbing it in people’s face, it’s simply something I’m proud of. As you, books were always my priority, even as a child. And the several hundred books on my shelves are a result of that. Most of them I got as gifts, or I bought them on very huge sales, or are second hand. It’s a collection I’ve been slowly gathering since I was in kindergarten. The majority is in Hungarian. You know, there was a time when I had to wait years for the translation to be published. And it was otherworldly when I finally could hold the book in my hands. That made me, and makes me cherish those books. They have months and years of longing and waiting weaved through their pages. So, no, I don’t feel privileged because I have 500 books. I feel lucky, thankful… and utterly proud.

    Great post/discussion idea ! 😘

    • Amber

      “Pride” is such a good way to describe the feeling of have a large book collection! There’s a solid difference between bragging and pride. And I are with the term “hasty social media world” – people do seem to be looking quickly to point fingers at people. It sounds like you have a long, wonderful history with the books you own, especially the ones with the waiting in their pages. <3

  3. I’ve curated my twitter feed to get rid of the angry people. It has made the world a much nicer place. I have no interest in encouraging people who think it is their job to police other people over things that aren’t hurting anyone.
    I also could afford to buy pretty much whatever book I would want. I’m different in that I don’t like having a large library. I try to limit myself to what will fit on two bookcases. I prefer ebooks to eliminate clutter. Live and let live.

    • Amber

      I wish I liked ebooks more! I have a difficult time focusing on reading on a screen, but it would clean up a looooot of the clutter I have in my life. 🙂 I”m glad it works for you!

  4. This is a great post!

    Book Twitter is very angry, and it’s one of the reasons I don’t go on there much anymore.

    I have quite a lot of books too, but the majority of them are second-hand. Books are also what I spend my money on instead of clothes, make-up etc!

    • Amber

      Book Twitter is so angry. I jump in from time to time, but it’s usually an angry place and while I think that there are some things that need to be addresses, I also feel like a lot of the time, there’s just a lot of finger-pointing and uncompromising conversations. It’s complicated to talk about attitudes without sounding like I’m *against* their various causes.

  5. I love looking at book haul posts! (Especially if the person got good deals on books!) I love to see what people choose to buy and what kind of books they are into! Its almost as exciting as getting new books myself.

    I know I am also privileged when it comes to books (I ONLY have about 400 😉 😂) but a lot of them were bought second hand! And the ones that I got new was because I really really wanted to read it right away! I love my collection and I wish everyone had a collection like this, but I know thats not always possible.

    Great post!

  6. Ohhh really interesting post Amber. I find people’s hauls a little excessive sometimes but mostly my feeling is towards books that aren’t being read! I’m a reasonably privileged book blogger (UK-based, disposable income, no dependents etc.) but I tend not to buy loads of books because I spend money on other things, I don’t have the space for them all and I found that I’d buy books on a whim and then not read them. I hope you can cut the negativity out of your twitter feed and enjoy your library. Yes, it’s a privilege to have one, but no one should make you feel bad for it, especially as you’re aware of it and you read the books!

    • Amber

      I cannot, personally, imagine buying books and not reading them. I’m so so proud to say I’ve read most the books I own, and the ones I haven’t are on my TBR! My problem with getting through hardcopy is mostly ARCs – I try to request and read a certain amount every year to offset (in my mind) the cost of hosting, and if I’m not enjoying them, they take a lot of time.

      I’ve definitely started avoiding twitter more as of late… just for mental health reasons! Not my favorite place these days. :'(

      • Arub

        I feel like the intention is there, but when you have so many it’s hard to get round to it? Slash you only want to read the latest books. I know you’re going through your own collection which is wonderful!
        Totally get that! And having to read a book I don’t like also puts me in a reading slump.
        I find that a lot of twitter can be toxic so I mostly stay away from it :/

        • Amber

          So much of Twitter is toxic. It’s really sad, because as a platform, it’s such a powerful tool… but unfortunately the bad side of too many people wins out. I miss the early days of Twitter where even celebrities managed their own accounts!