My Thoughts on Consumerism in the Book Community…

I’ve often said that as an unhealthy habit, hoarding books is not as bad as it could be. There are far worse vices after all. I mean, they’re BOOKS, right?! They’re full of wonderful stories and knowledge and *feels*! And they’re not too bad to look at either 😉 So I am by no means critiquing buying books… that would make me a massive hypocrite if nothing else 😉

HOWEVER lately I’ve been wondering about the extremes of consumerism in the book community. I see people coveting far, far too many books- more than anyone in their right mind can afford. I see silly quotes online like “Before you turn 30 you should have more books than you could possibly read in a lifetime”. Not only does that fail to appreciate that most people don’t have that sort of disposable income, but it also raises the question: should we really be encouraging people to bankrupt themselves for books they have no intention of reading?!

It’s no wonder that people feel left behind. If you don’t have your own rainbow-bookshelf library, if you don’t have ten collectors copies of all the latest books, if you don’t have every. single. new release… well then you’re never gonna keep up with the Joneses, are you? And that will never do 😉

I can hardly blame people for deciding to forgo book buying altogether, choosing to utilise libraries (yay!) and go the minimalist route (oof). Something I could hardly commit to- I love buying books far too much!

And, to be fair, it’s not so hard for me to justify my purchases (I’m supporting authors! The editors!  The artists! The industry!) Sooo perhaps there is a happy medium to be had between coveting ALL THE BOOKS and stripping your shelves bare. Perhaps we can recognise that consumerism goes too far and also be alright supporting our favourite authors. Perhaps we can choose to be more mindful about the books that make it onto our shelves rather than just shoving another paperback on that we never intend to read just because it has a pretty cover…

Okay, who am I kidding? I still want ALL THE BOOKS! 😉

Well that was inconclusive on my part! Maybe you can shed more light on the topic- has consumerism gone too far in the book community? Do you try to cut back on your book-buying habits? Let me know in the comments!


27 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Consumerism in the Book Community…

  1. I’m so curious to see peoples’ responses! When I moved in with my boyfriend at age 24, I had over 1300 books, so I was encouraged to pare back to about 100 (he also had a huge collection that was reduced). There have only been 3 of the 1100 I have regretted parting ways with. Then, eight years later, all our books were destroyed in a flood. As much as I love physical books, I’ve come to embrace my local library and Kobo e-reader. One day, I’ll have my huge library again…

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  2. If someone has more books than they can read in a lifetime, then that’s a problem. Because at that point one is buying books solely for the pleasure of buying something and not because of any other reason. Considering the epidemic of credit card debt here in the US, that’s simply unacceptable. It also shows a paucity of character in that people aren’t willing to forego immediate pleasure and a lack of understanding of finances in general for long term items (like buying a house. Or moving out of one’s parents house!).

    But if someone has no debt and they’ve contributed to a church or charity in their vicinity, put away 10% into their IRA/401K/whatever and made sure their neighbor isn’t going without food, then by all means, buy all the books! 😀

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  3. Consumerism in general, in all things, has gone too far. For me personally, I think I’ve overdone it, since I own over a 1000 book and have read probably less than half of them. Moving and having to organize them was a pain. I don’t mind owning many book, but I would like to have read them all, or the majority of them. So my thought is that owning many books is fine as long as it’s valuable or worthwhile to you. The book becomes more valuable to me if I’ve read it (although there are some I value simply because it’s a beautiful product).

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  4. I do think that the bookish community sometimes advocates for consumerism in ways that I don’t agree with or that I find troubling. Even those “cute” memes about “choosing books over bread” or whatever bother me because they do seem to be encouraging people to spend money they don’t have and go into debt. I love books! I love buying and owning books! I think other people should be allowed to buy books without guilt if their personal situations allow it! At the same time, it’s possible to overdo it just as with anything else.

    And, as much as we don’t like to admit it, books are, for the people reading these types of memes and posts, usually more of a “luxury” item than a necessity. Yes, books are important and transformative. And literacy is a valuable skill that helps people in life. But not buying the latest hyped BookTok book doesn’t seem quite the same as not being able to afford food, shelter, or health care. And, really, I don’t like memes or tags or posts that suggest that it is, and that encourage people to go into debt for what is essentially a hobby.
    (Or assumed to be a hobby for the target audience of the memes. These types of things are not usually written for people who are truly struggling to access books, but avid book lovers who OF COURSE already own 5000 books and are looking for more. And then the “funny” meme insidiously suggests that book lovers have to act/buy a certain way to be “real” book lovers.)

    That being said, if people can afford books, and they think they will read and enjoy the books, I think they should go for it. Authors and publishers do need to sell some books, after all, if we want them to keep producing them. And buying doesn’t need to mean keeping! I often buy books and then donate them so others can enjoy them. I think people who recognize that they aren’t going to read all their books don’t have to feel bad about it–they can just pass them on to people who will enjoy them instead.

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  5. I like this discussion and see it pop up now and then with friends as they feel pressure to be up to date with the latest releases and what their friends are reading, or showing off their shelves.

    On the topic of consumerism – I like to think each to their own. You alone have control over your money and the space you have to store books. If its something your passionate about, you do you. Otherwise who really cares? You don’t need to keep up with the Jones’!

    Personally I like to have a wide selection of around 50-100 books that I’m yet to read in my library (that’s usually around a years worth of reading for me) because I’m a mood reader and enjoy what grabs my attention at any point in time. Too much more than that and I get paralysed for choice. Or I get anxiety because OCD kicks in and I just have complete the TBR pile soon and there is way too many books to read. So my relationship with books and commercialism is a personal one. I like to control my own economy, curate my own collection, and I don’t really feel the pressure to buy, buy, buy. I can satisfy any of those niggling feelings with building wishlists, and then when I get my allotted spending budget for buying books for the month, I can decide what I’m most excited for from the wishlist.

    There are so many options to get access to books these days that I feel consumerism is a bit of a cop out. You can get a certain number of free reads with an Amazon subscription, you can borrow ebooks and physical copies from libraries for free, borrow a friends copy, little libraries, frequent used book sellers and opportunity shops, join reading programs like NetGalley… there are a plethora of ways to build a library, or a virtual one, for little money, or completely free. So consumerism makes me feel like its people whining because they want what they cant have.

    But this conversation becomes even more controversial when you think about countries that don’t have access to libraries (or education,) or have governments censoring what literature is available. Complaining about owning too many books to read feels really silly. I simply feel blessed for what I have and enjoy life as best I can… consumerism-schmurerism!

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  6. I have always said people can spend their money on the things that make them happy, but I know I blog in order to support my reading habit. Back when I did have rainbow shelves, almost all those books were ARCs from books conventions. It’s been years since I went to a con, and I have shed all my physical books since I moved. I am happy using the library, but like you said, book buying into the worst habit to have.


  7. I used to be a collector – to be fair, most of my books come to me as review copies from publishers so I wasn’t bankrupting myself or anything, but I definitely was a hoarder. So what if I’ll probably never have time to read it, I still might get to it someday! Needless to say my house started piling up with books, literally. I’ve recently caved though, and started culling my collection, donating and stuff. Still keeping my favorites, and that’s still quite a lot! 😀


  8. I try to limit my purchases or I always prefer twice or thrice a year purchase when there is sale or big discount or have second hand book fair in city. I often buy books 2-3 yrs after release when price is low or hype has died. Usually those books have great reviews from bloggers I follow and I know I will enjoy them. For new release there are publishers and netgalley that gives eARC but I don’t usually buy physical format of those eARCs.


  9. I love this post. Earlier this year, I started missing the feeling of finishing a book and having to go to the library or the bookstore for my next read. All I have to do now is get to my TBR shelves and pick. The excitement of getting a new book is no longer here. I am grateful I have so many books, but I haven’t been buying any new ones because I want to get back to feeling thrilled to pick up a new one.
    Also, I did a big cleaning of the shelves and gave away my read books and proofs, only keeping my favorites or books that were gifted to me.

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  10. I used to want every single book as a physical copy and my favorites as collector’s editions on top of that. Everything had to be in pristine condition, even after I read them, so that they could look like beautiful museum pieces on my shelf. But I’ve moved last year and carting my 500+ books around was a nightmare. I’ve sold some since and I now gift books I’ve enjoyed to friends, to spread the joy that the stories brought me. Also, I often buy ebooks instead of physical copies now. My ereader can come along much easier with more content than I could carry in physical book-shape. I often only buy physical books as gifts or when I know I want to annotate or revisit them often (like with poetry).

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  11. I buy books that I plan on reading within the following weeks. I treat myself to one or two coffee table books a year to look at a page at a time or when I need a lift. But I buy reading books mainly on my ereader…

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  12. I loved this post. When I moved three years ago, I gave all my books away. Now I’ve probably doubled the amount I had before. (Mostly from secondhand stores and library sales.) I am guilty of buying books and not reading them, so I’m putting myself on a book-buying freeze for the next few months.

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  13. Interesting topic! I don’t think there’s a point in buying books just for the sake of buying them… but at the same time, I buy far more books than I’m able to read right then, so then they sit on my shelves. But at least the intention is there when I buy them! Because my shelves are so full right now, I try to be really choosy about what books I buy, and I do try to do a purge once or twice a year and donate back to the library.

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  14. This is a tricky one. If buying and having books makes people happy, fantastic. It can be hard though if they are creating an illusion. There are people with money management issues, they buy the books (other stuff too) and then they don’t have power until they can pay the bill but they aren’t starving (luckily) because their mom is making them meals for the week (they are also going to their mom’s house for access to the internet) but you don’t see that part. Also, they aren’t disclosing how many books they are getting for free. They just have a big stack of books. But that’s a debate too. Are they obligated to disclose the behind the scenes stuff? I find it helpful in other areas because I have spending issues in general myself (ironically not with books). I do think it’s wrong when people guilt trip those who have books or leave those awkward passive aggressive comments.

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  15. I don’t think my book buying habit is influence by the book “community”. New releases, book boxes and special edition do not appeal to me. I buy a majority of my books used. It easier to get more books for cheap that way.
    If people want to spend their money on books then fine. If it become a problem then maybe they should seek professional help that not the internet.

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  16. I think there’s some study that says you remember what you read in a physical book better than a digital one. So for me, I tend to lean digital if I think I will read the book once, and will buy a physical copy if I anticipate wanting to reread and remember the book well.

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  17. I certainly can’t afford to be a collector of fancy hardbacks and I don’t see anything wrong with getting a cheaper copy. I find that doing that not only keeps my bank account happy but also allows me to be more adventurous with my reading. If the book didn’t cost much, I’m happier if it turns out good and not as disappointed if it turns out bad.


  18. As an avid analog book lover, it would be hard for me not to want to own the beautiful things. I read an article a few years back ( that said ebooks change your retention, and so now I will try to focus my book purchases on stuff I want to remember – either because it’s a topic I care about, a series I love, or I book I know I adore. I also tend to “collect” beautiful editions of books I love for years of future reading (for myself and with others). Basically, it forced me to set a higher bar on the books I personally own.

    I do make heavy use of book donation centers though! I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford a lot of physical copies, and will donate books I liked but didn’t love / books I think others might enjoy to our local little free libraries.


  19. Love this post! I have been thinking about this since I entered the community.

    It makes me realize that I should probably try to read all the books I own (so many sit unfinished). I don’t typically buy new books, but when I do I usually go with a classic or something I really think will be worth the investment. Goodwill and used shops are really nice (and less expensive) too.

    Buying a trending book or one that I’ll never read again doesn’t appeal to me most of the time, because I’ve done it before and they tend to sit there and I regret my purchase and loss of shelf space. For instance, I own Twilight and I don’t particularly want to display on my shelves, so it sits in my closest.

    I see little point. Especially considering libraries are available.

    And I like the idea of donating! I think that’s a good solution to keep books in circulation and get rid of books that 1. Take up too much space and 2. Promote used books. Not everything has to be new and shiny to be beautiful and worthwhile. I think that’s my main takeaway; I want to focus on substance with book ownership instead of pure aesthetics first. But I get it, beautiful book covers are awesome.


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