Monday, November 03, 2014

What is Valuable? The Problem with Overabundance

Used with permission

In case anyone was wondering, I love to read.  I have loved to read since my first grade teacher taught me how--or even before, since I knew the main reason I was going to school was to learn to read.  Since that time I have devoured books.  I was in many schools over my academic career and one thing they all had in common was that they only allowed you to check out two books at a time from the library.  Until I hit junior high and could go to the library daily, that just wasn't enough--I had them read by bedtime on library day; all I could do the rest of the week was re-read them.  I owned a few books of my own.  The Scholastic book order forms took most of my allowance those years, but a day or so after I got them, my new books were read.  When I got old enough to go to the public library by myself in the summers, I'd go through four or five books a day.  Yes, I'm a reader and I always have been.

Needless to say, after I started making my own money, bookstores got some of it--but not really all that much.  It didn't take higher math to figure out that as fast as I read books I'd go broke buying them.  I used my library card rather than my credit card, but the bookstore was a regular stop when I went to the mall--even if I didn't buy all that often.  When Borders and Barnes and Noble opened huge bookstores, I was in heaven.  Even though I didn't buy often I loved going in there and looking.  The Friends of the Library Big Book Sale was terrific; lots of choices for little money.  One year I happened upon it at the mall and it must have been near the end.  They handed me a box, told me I could fill it and it would cost me $1.00.  What a great day!

Then I discovered book blogging.  Like many others, I started writing about books I acquired in conventional ways.  Then I learned about blog tours and signed up with First Wildcard Tours.  They sent me free books in the mail; all I had to do was publish their material.  What a deal.  I joined more lists, and more review programs.  Publicists would see my blog and pitch books to me.  There were weeks when I had packages more days than I didn't.  Life was good. 

Next, I got a Kindle.  That opened up a whole new world.  Not only could I get free books in the mail, I could get free advance digital copies.  I joined NetGalley and wrote, back in January, 2011, that they had about 800 books available.  Today, that number is over 3800.  There is a similar site called Edelweiss which has over 3500 review copies available--though some are duplicates of what is offered on NetGalley. Also, as any Kindle owner knows, there are plenty of freebies available on Amazon and elsewhere. My Kindle runneth over.  I could read for hours every day for a month and not clear out the backlog.  

I used to check NetGalley and Edelweiss at least weekly looking for new reads.  I used to reply to lots of publicists requests for reviews.  I used to love to go to the bookstore, and was thrilled with a gift card that meant I could buy books without guilt.  Lately though, I've had enough.  I still check a publisher or two on NetGalley pretty regularly, but there are a lot of books I would have grabbed a couple of years ago that I haven't requested, and probably won't request.  If I want to read them later, I suspect my library will get them, and if not, oh well.  Tour requests get a lot closer look than they once did too.  

While I still love to read, and still spend plenty of time doing so, I've realized that scarcity is part of what made book ownership (as opposed to reading) enjoyable to me.  When book buying was a rare treat, the act of searching for and purchasing a book was pleasurable.  When review copies were a new thing, and relatively rare, getting them made me feel special, and having the book was great too.  Then my bookshelf began to be over-crowded.  I realized that with all these books coming into the house, the ones already here were not likely to be re-read.  Storing and disposing of books became new problems in my life (ok, maybe the word "problem" is a little strong, but I can't think of another on at this moment).  

All too often in this life, it is easy to think that "if only" I could get more of this or all I wanted of that, life would be great.  Perhaps my experience with books is there to remind me that more is not necessarily better.


  1. I can echo so many of your thoughts here. I loved the Scholastic book orders and the library was my favorite place to visit as a child. I, too, get caught up in the "if only I could have" routine and more is definitely not better! Terrific post.

  2. Stuff becomes a burden almost by surprise.

  3. Anonymous4:32 PM

    I was the same way as a child. Three years ago all my books were destroyed in a house fire. I now own very few things, but again have stacks and stacks of unread books!


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