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.