BA Chat: Side Effects of a Personal Library Going Unread

I’m one of those readers who loves to collect books. I know there’s other bibliophiles with far more than I currently have, I’m around the 600+ mark, but I still feel having the number of books I own to be impacting on my life.

There’s the obvious consequence of having so many books, which is space. What comes from lack of space apart from finding the room though? In my experience it also adds to not being able to keep books in order, taking longer to find a book I want, and in some cases giving up on trying to find a particular book because it takes far too long.

Then there are the extra side effects such as forgetting you have a copy of a certain book (thankfully this can lead to a pleasant surprise), if you loan books out to your friends and family possibly not being able to keep track of them, and the most recent one that has come to my attention is when moving house. Books take up a lot of room, require a lot of boxes, and can pack some weight. All of which can equal exhaustion at the end of the day if you have a hefty collection.

I’ve discovered another side effect recently and I believe this is mostly due to having so many unread books. I’m one of those collectors who has a tendency not to wait till all my books are read before buying more. I can buy one here or there, but I find my collection adds up thanks to sales and book fairs. Before I know it the amount of unread books I own have taken over the read books and I find myself being able to browse my shelves as if I was in a library. It’s not a huge amount of difference, perhaps a little more than 50%, but with the introduction of eBooks (I’ve only been counting the printed books up until now) it’s enough to keep me from leaving the house for awhile. Well, at least in search of more reading material.

And this is where I feel the side effect of unread books in your personal library can come in. I went out for the day with my partner. We didn’t really have anything planned, just going for a walk and browsing Cronulla Mall (it’s an open strip lined with shops), stopping for some lunch, and what you’d expect to do if you’re a bookworm and there’s even a whiff of books in the area; drop in at the local bookstore. Right?

I haven’t been inside a bookstore for some time. Between the unread books I already have and the amount of books I received for free last year (via giveaways, review requests, and gifts), I haven’t really felt a need. Then of course we lost the local Angus and Robertson store and we don’t exactly have that many bookstores in the area. What the used bookstores charge is something I refuse to pay when I know I can get those books for more than half price and other bookstores are far too expensive.

So really I haven’t had much opportunity or real need to go to one, but I was still surprised when I entered the bookstore at Cronulla. I found myself browsing, but the hunger wasn’t there. I had no idea where to look and it wasn’t due to being in a bookstore I seldom visit. I found a few books that were interesitng, but the majority of those were ones my partner showed me. I wondered the whole store, but never really delved into any of the shelves, or spent time reading the backs of ones that drew my interest. Apart from All My Friends are Dead, none of them actually brought out any enthusiasm in me. I found my curiosity piqued more by the bookish accessories and the layout of the store.

It’s true. I believe I have lost my zest for bookstores.

This disturbs me somewhat. I know that it’s mostly due to having so many unread books and telling myself that I really don’t need anymore. There’s no room and I have a thing about being excessive. I don’t like it. Still, even having some enthusiasm for a few titles and adding them to my to be read list might be an idea, but it was dim. So dim in fact I could have gone without.

What has happened to me? Don’t get me wrong, I love that I can browse my own shelves and have plenty to divulge my change in tastes, but I always loved browsing the shelves of a bookstore, sitting down in front of the shelves with a stack of books and reading all the backs of them, digging in between the covers to find something special, delighting in the phenomenen of being surrounded by other book lovers, and finally bringing a new book home with the excitement and thrill that would create.

A part of me wonders if it’s also other factors such as finances (that’s always a common one), not really having a decent bookstore (they rarely have what I want and sometimes they can’t even order it in), and the big one; ease of acquirement. Now with digital technology going on, isn’t it so much easier to buy a title, whether in eBook format or print, with the click of a button? There may not always be that instant gratification, but when you buy from a bookstore that has to order in the titles you want anyway, perhaps the wait doesn’t matter.

Have you ever lost your zest for bookstores and browsing? If so what did you do about it? I’d love for you to share your experience or any bookish thoughts you have.

Top image from SXC
Have something bookish you’d like to share with BA’s readers? We’re always looking for guest posters, regular contributors, and we’d love to hear from you.

4 thoughts on “BA Chat: Side Effects of a Personal Library Going Unread

  1. I still love going to bookstores although I haven’t been to one in quite some time. I, too, have over 600 unread books on my shelves. Those are actual books, and the number doesn’t include the e-books on my nook and iPad. I can’t justify spending money on more books when the ones I have are causing the shelves in closet to sag and are tucked away in boxes under my bed. I also have a great public library and I use that frequently, although, strangely, not to browse as it is just too easy to reserve the books I want online and run in to pick them up. We also have a good local shop for trading paperbacks. When I go there, my rule is that I can only come home with half the number of books I’ve traded in. But having said all that, I do find that being in a bookstore can make me feel very calm.


  2. There are only probably three bookstores which I go to now which having anything of interest for me – the one that speacialises in Science Fiction and Fantasy that I go to (That bookshop has probably been my favourite bookshop for about ten years or so…), Blackwells at Oxford and this one at Bakewell. Why? Well, I tend to read a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy books and the Sci-Fi shop that I go to usually has books from America which my local Waterstone’s never seem to have in anymore. The Bakewell shop tends to have a lot of Pagan, (mainly Celtic/Druidic, not Wicca, which is what most high street shops have in) Mythology and Natural History books in. The Blackwell’s in Oxford – well, what can I say about that? I spent years trying to get hold of Norse Mythology books and they have everything I want there. Because I am a Zoologist, I can spend hours looking through them all. If I went on Holiday to Oxford, I could probably spend a day in there and not be bored! (Trouble is, I would probably have to take a loan out on the house if I stayed there that long……) Compare it to Waterstone’s and Waterstone’s are just crap. It takes them ages to put out the new releases that I’m waiting for, they seem to be more bothered about promoting the latest kid’s book that has been made into a film, and so have mountains and mountains of those around (the book itself may not be bad, but in some cases is, but it makes the shop look boring and you get fed up of seeing the same books everywhere you go – in smaller shops you can have the entire genre in the store just being made up of that author…. Although it is disappointing, it doesn’t bother me too much if I have a mountain of books to read because like you, I don’t have the room, but it is annoying when I find a book on goodreads or one of these book blogs that I read that look interesting and the shop doesn’t have them! I have become a bit bored with bookshops because most of the ones that I go to don’t have what I’m looking for but I am still interested enough if I find a shop which has loads of books that Ive been on the look-out for.


  3. I can identify with your experience, I have to admit I have just about given up on local book stores which never have what I want, when I want it and if they order a book for me they generally take longer than it takes me to get from the book depository. I do still have a couple of favourite bookshops in Brisbane but that is two hours away. When in Brisbane I do still make a point of visiting those stores and buying something because I would truly miss them if they were not there, but local stores I have given up on and frankly they only have themselves to blame for that. The range they stock is so limited and I could just easily go to kmart and get the same books cheaper and the service is generally just not there.
    At my favourite stores I have made wonderfull book discoveries, books I had not heard of elsewhere but books I came to love, so I go back for the sheer pleasure of browsing, the treasure hunt and am rarely disappointed, service also is different in these shops. The people who work there read books and have a genuine passion. I don’t get meet by the blank, annoyed looks that are so familiar at the local stores. The two stores I still go out of my way to support are Pulp Fiction in Brisbane city and Dymocks at Indropilly. Up until recently I would feel guilty for buying a book online but not any more, I have tried to support local stores but they have failed miserably to support readers like me. My partner has a similar problem, he reads a large amount of science fiction none of which he can get locally, so we make special trips to visit Pulp Fiction in Brisbane so he can stock up. I discovered my favourite crime author by browsing in PF, I will always try and support a quality book shop but I no longer feel guilty about not supporting the local stores.
    As readers and book lovers I suspect many of us have the unread collection problem but isn’t nice to know you always have something to read.


  4. Sorry-I haven’t lost my love of bookstores yet. In fact, I’m probably going to visit one tomorrow or Monday. 🙂

    But I do have something in common with you-I have sooooooo many books that I haven’t read yet. And I still buy more! One thing’s for sure-I’ll NEVER be without a book to read!



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