Over the weekend, one of my Tweeps (a word I never thought I’d use in a serious fashion, but there you have it) asked something along the lines of “Does anyone else keep buying books before finishing the last ones?”
The answer, in my case, is a resounding YES.
Most of my friends (and many other Tweeps) said the same. Which started me thinking: why? What is it about bibliophiles that makes us so compulsive about acquisition of titles, even when our reading lists stretch out and the stacks by our beds rise high enough to endanger small children and curious cats?
In my case, I think three factors predominate. In rough summary, but no particular order, they are forgetfulness, necessity and opportunity.
If I see a book reviewed, advertised, or mentioned in a way that makes me eager to read it, I generally buy it at once. (Amazon + 1-click + a heavy blog and review reading list has not helped my control in this regard.) If I don’t, I end up forgetting about it for weeks, months, or (in one notable case) years. Some might argue that this means I didn’t need it anyway, but I’d respond that for some of us reading is more than a matter of “need.”
But since need was mentioned: as a writer of historical fiction, I do “need” certain books for research purposes, and if I see something on sale or online that I know will fill a niche in my bookshelf, either for general reasons or for an upcoming work, I grab it. The only thing worse than needing a resource and not having it is knowing you saw it on Barnes & Noble’s 75% off table six months ago and the only copy currently available is offered on Amazon by some dude who thinks it’s worth six times list price.
As far as opportunity goes – I’m a sucker for a bargain, and between the local Bookworms and the SPCA’s annual used book sale, there are plenty around. That’s not even counting the damage I’ve done on the discount tables at area bookstores.
If I had to guess, I’d say there are more than 50 unread books sitting in my “to be read” queue – and that’s just counting the ones physically present in my home. (The Amazon wish-list cranks that up by another 30 at least.) I’d like to call that an embarrassing anomaly, but the number hasn’t changed much in the last year, even though I read, on average, two books a week.
This seems to be a fairly normal state, at least among readers, but I’m still curious: what factors make you buy books, especially if you buy them well in advance of the dates you could possibly read them? As a secondary question: do you always read them in the order you originally intended, or does the pile become a pseudo-library from which you pick based on what looks better at the time?
Pop your answers in the comments or link from your own blog – I’m really curious to know where others weigh in on this one.