Why I decided to (mostly) stop buying books

I love reading. Ever since I can remember I have loved reading. One thing that I always wanted to achieve was having my own ‘private library’ so that I would always have access to books to read. To me, a private library does not have to be a huge room of books with floor-to-wall bookshelves all round. Well…maybe childhood me would have considered that an ultimate goal, but now my idea of an ideal private library has changed.

As much as I like the look of books on a bookshelf, I would much rather be reading a book than looking at it. Having stacks of books that I’ve never read crammed into various crevices on shelves and then just sitting there for months just doesn’t appeal to me.

My current private library goal is this: to have enough books that I have a reasonable selection of reading material at home. These books should be ones that I like/know I’m going to like. There also should not be so many books that I am unable to read or store them all.

This shift in my personal bookish goal has come about mainly from two other life goals: to be more economically friendly (that is, to not spend as much money on books which are non-essential purchases) and to be more environmentally friendly (to be more sustainable and not acquire new things only for them to spend most of their shelf-life (yes, that pun was intentional) sitting and collecting dust).

As a result, last year I decided to not buy any books unless they met any of the following criteria: 1. the book is at a heavily discounted price or is second-hand; 2. the book is an essential text for university; 3. the book is something I have wanted to read for a significant amount of time, I know I will like it and will read it multiple times, and it is on sale.

Since then I have only purchased a few books for university, plus a few very discounted clearance section) books and second-hand books last year. So far this year I have only bought books that I needed for university classes.

I’m so glad that I made the decision to stop buying books unless I could very seriously consider and justify the purchase. Because I have done this, I have avoided the familiar guilty feeling when you realise it has been months since you bought a book and you still haven’t read it. I have also avoided the frustration at trying to haphazardly stuff all my books onto bookshelves. I have avoided the sad feeling of reading a book I bought only to realise that I don’t like it and probably won’t ever reread it. I have saved money. I have rekindled my love and usage of my local libraries. After all, why should I need to go out and buy so many books when I can simply borrow a book to read it?

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