Hi readers! Over the years in the book community, I’ve seen a few discussions around consumerism in the book community, thoughts on book hauls and how some people feel pressured to buy/own a lot of books. This blog post will be all about my own experiences with these things & why this has influenced me to put a restriction on my book buying in 2019.
My Book Buying Habits
I have been a voracious reader for as long as I can remember. When I was in primary school I used to borrow books from my school library every couple of weeks. As far as I remember I never borrowed more than I would actually read. Once I hit high school and was in year 7 and 8, I was still reading a large amount of books from my school library and also some YA off my mum’s shelves at home. It was in the last year or so of primary school and my first couple years of high school where I began to start my own book collection. Sometimes at school I would read the first book in a series and they wouldn’t have the rest of the series available, so my mum sometimes went and bought the series for me to binge read. We used to go to scholastic book fairs and fill up a box with books that mostly went unread in the following months. Since having my own collection of books, ever since I was 12ish, I’ve always owned more books than I’ve been able to read.
Fast forward to the age of 15 where I got my first job. Almost immediately after I started to make my own money, I would spend that money on books. I hadn’t really discovered online book shopping, so I would buy my books from Kmart, Dymocks or my local indie. I went for familiar authors or genres I was currently obsessed with. At the end of 2014, when I was 16, I decided to make my first ever bookstagram account. I had never been exposed to blogging or book twitter or booktube, but I had followed some book accounts on instagram and decided to make my own.
I fell into a rabbit hole when I joined bookstagram. My eyes were opened to so many books and authors I’d never heard of because my local bookstores didn’t stock them. I discovered ordering books online. For the most part, when I first joined bookstagram, I only ordered books online if they weren’t available at my local store or couldn’t be ordered in (due to release dates, since US/UK/Aus release dates may vary). I wanted to own all the books I saw everyone talking about because I wanted to join in the community, make some friends. I thought the best way to do that was to buy and read all the books everyone else was reading. My book collection grew tremendously between 2015-2017, so much so that I was known by my real life friends as a mini library. I still haven’t read half of the books I owned back then, and have no interest in reading them anymore. I started unhauling books at the end of 2016/start of 2017, and it’s something I would like to regularly do in the coming years. I see no point in a book taking up space on my bookshelves if I’m no longer interested in reading it.
I still have a ridiculous book buying addiction now. My family and friends are always tagging me in funny reading memes on Facebook, making jokes about reading the books I already own before buying new ones. At some point, I want to get to a stage where I have 0 unread books on my shelves and I go and buy books when I’ve finished the ones I own. I know that will definitely not be anytime soon. I saw a tweet yesterday where somebody said they calculated how much money they’d spend on books so far this year, and it was double what they anticipated they’d spent. I calculated my own book buying, and whilst I had spent less than what I thought I had, it was still a ridiculously high amount of money. My physical TBR is over 100 books now, which is more than I read in a year. If I continue the way I’ve been spending this year, I’ll never finish all of my books. Hence why I’ve decided to restrict my book buying.
What Influence Does the Book Community Have on Book Buying Habits?
Honestly, I think the influence the book community has on book buying habits depends on the person. As I mentioned, even before I joined the book community, I owned more books that I hadn’t read than books I had. That just compounded when I joined the book community, because I discovered so many new books and authors that I wanted to read. However, I can understand why people feel pressured to buy a lot of books or have a big collection. I’m going to focus my discussion of this on bookstagram since that’s my OG platform in the community.
The idea of bookstagram is actually very shallow. I’m sorry if that offends anybody, but at the end of the day, we follow people on bookstagram not just to hear their opinions on books (we’d follow reviews if that were the case), but to see pretty photos of books. That’s it. When most of the popular YA bookstagrammers (20k+ followers) are financially secure, middle-aged white women who post huge hauls every month and feature almost exclusively hardcover books in their photos, it creates the sort of baseline for what is expected if you want to gain lots of followers. And if you want to make connections in the community, you have to gain followers. Now, I’m not trying to say that middle-aged white women are out here forcing people to buy lots of books or whatever, but when people see that those who buy more books than they read & only really feature hardcover books are the ones getting lots of followers and opportunities to work with publishers, I can see why people feel pressured.
When I started reading more diversely and started posting more photos of library books, my engagement plummeted. Even though I was taking my photos in the exact same style as when I used to read what everyone else was reading, people weren’t liking/commenting as much because they didn’t know the books and library books aren’t as “aesthetically pleasing.” It’s not a conscious thing. I don’t think people say to themselves “oh, I’m not going to like this pic because it has a library book in it” but we’ve been conditioned to think that pristine, new hardcover books= the ultimate aesthetic. So whilst I don’t think there’s a conscious effort to exclude people who post pics of their ereaders or library books or lesser known books, there is an unconscious bias against all of those things.
I can’t talk about this topic without bringing up privilege. In my first couple years on bookstagram, there was very little acknowledgement of the privilege surrounding book buying. There’s been more discussion around it now, but it still isn’t talked about a whole lot. At the end of the day, you are privileged if you have the disposable income to be able to buy lots of books every month, to be able to buy pristine hardcovers all the time. This is not meant to offend anyone, it’s just a fact. I know that people who are not privileged in this sense sometimes feel unwelcome or uncomfortable on bookstagram because there is so much of an obsession with book hauls and hardcovers. I’m not saying that if we have the means, we shouldn’t buy lots of books or do what makes us happy, but it’s important for us to be conscious about all of this, especially as adults with a lot of young/teen followers.
My 2019 Book Buying Restriction
As I mentioned, my physical TBR is now officially over 100 books. I have spent a ridiculous amount of money on books in the last 9 months, and so I’ve decided to restrict my book buying in 2019. I’m going to try out a few different methods to see what works best for me in terms of book buying/restricting myself, and I’ll probably do up a post a few months into 2019 to talk about how it’s going! My ideas are:
- Read 5, Buy 1: this is pretty self explanatory (lmao). I’ve tried this before and it hasn’t worked too well, but I also need to work on my self control. So.
- Financial restriction: I haven’t tried this before, but I might try to put $15-20 away each week to buy books only on the first of every month with whatever money I had put away the month before
- Only buy books I’ve read/loved: this one will rely heavily on my local library. If I want to read a book I do not already own, I have to borrow it from the library. I can only buy physical copies of books that I loved and want on my shelves. (Can buy ebooks if unavailable from library).
I think I’ll try one of each of these for the first three months of 2019 and see which works best. I’m really hoping I can stick to this, and I’m expecting to save a bit of money during this ban.
This post ended up a lot lengthier than I was expecting, so if you’ve stuck around to read this post in its entirety, I thank you! This is a really interesting topic, in my opinion, and I’ve found that consumerism and pressure in the book community impacts each individual person in different ways. So, if you’d like to discuss all of this, feel free to leave a comment & answer some of these discussion questions:
- How do you access most of your books?
- What has been your experience with consumerism and pressure in the book community?
- What are your thoughts on book buying bans/restrictions? Have you ever tried one? Do they work for you?
- Is there anything you feel I’ve missed in my blog post, or haven’t discussed thoroughly?
Thank you all so much for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion!
– Taryn xxx