NYR iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Dave Astor

GET UPDATES FROM Dave Astor
 

Is It Best to Buy or Borrow Books?

Posted: 09/28/11 12:30 PM ET

Now stepping into the ring: Buying Books vs. Using a Library! That bout might never make pay-per-view, but it's a contest often on the minds of avid readers.

One major positive of buying books is more money in the pockets of authors, who -- unless they're someone like Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling -- tend to need all the sales they can get. Plus you're giving business to bookstores (hopefully independent ones, if there are any near you).

Then there's the pleasure of adding another title to your home shelves -- where the book is always available for reading, for impressing guests with your superior taste in literature, and for balancing that wobbly coffee table with one short leg.

An owned book also enables you to fill the pages with notes (such as "the coffee-table leg that's short is the back left one"), avoid a heart attack after accidentally spilling grape juice all over Chapter 1, and bequeath the book to your daughter or licensed plumber.

Actually, I'm being too glib here. Owning books is a wonderful thing!

But taking out titles from your local library has advantages, too. It's free -- an especially nice price in these grim economic times. It's eco-friendly, because many people eventually peruse the same copy. And it can lead to more reading, because there's a deadline for when the books need to be returned.

Sure, you can renew a book. But I try to avoid that. If I borrowed four library books the month before, I'll stay up late a few nights before the due date to finish that last one. I read approximately 10 more novels a year that way.

Last but not least, library users are supporting an important government institution at a time when many right-wingers want to close or privatize almost everything that's not making a profit for greedy corporations. America needs democratic places that welcome everyone, not just people with lots of money.

As you might have guessed, I'm more of a library user than a book buyer -- though I'm also a book buyer once removed. That is, if someone asks me what I want for my birthday or the holidays, I'll often suggest a title my local library doesn't stock or is constantly checked out. Recent gifts have enabled me to read great books such as Sir Walter Scott's Waverley, Jack London's Martin Eden, Erich Maria Remarque's Arch of Triumph, and Barbara Kingsolver's nonfiction Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

There's also the debate about buying e-books vs. downloading them from libraries, but I had printed books in mind when I wrote this post.

How do you, as a HuffPost visitor, prefer to get your printed books? Pay-per-view has the same initials as preference-proffering visitors, you know.