The Case for Book Ownership

I have a guilty confession to make.  I know a lot of you are becoming “e-readers”, some of you especially because you don’t want to accumulate more “stuff.”  While it might make me appear materialistic, I have to tell you, I disagree.  I am a bibliophile in every sense of the word.  I don’t just love the words on the pages, I love the pages themselves.  Why just today, I ordered six more books!  We check out books by the dozens from the library, but even the large library where we pay for membership in a neighboring city doesn’t have many of the older books I love.  Or, if they have the books, they are lacking the original illustrations that make a book really beautiful.  This is another reason I don’t love e-books.  The illustrations often make the story.

Another reason I love book ownership is that everyone in the family can read the book at his or her own pace without running out of renewals.  We often buy books that we want to read aloud as a family — the pressure to read it in the 6 weeks allowed by the local library just isn’t worth it.  We buy books that we want to use for school, and we often buy cookbooks (Eden and I just made the first Tres Leches cake from the new Pioneer Woman cookbook today) because we want to be able to take them on trips and get them messy.  We buy books to replace books that we have “read to death.”  We buy books so that we can loan them to our friends.

We buy books online, through Amazon, Abebooks (my favorite for used books) and Alibris.  We buy books at library book sales, yard sales and thrift stores.  Our friends and parents give us books they think we might enjoy.  The fact is, we hardly ever say no to a book.  We do sort occasionally and pass books on.  In fact, we are needing to pass along a lot of fairly good condition children’s books right now — Max is outgrowing all but the very favorite of the picture books.  I wish we could find a place to donate them.  Then we would have room for more books!

Thank goodness I am married to a finish carpenter!  He has built wonderful bookshelves in nearly every room of the house.  There are a few rooms lacking bookshelves — the bathroom (Our last house had a bookshelf in the bathroom, but I couldn’t keep any books I really valued there.  It was too dusty.), the kitchen (but I would love one, I just can’t find the spot.), and my bedroom (I know, strange.) All of the kids have their own bookshelves in their bedrooms, and consider it a privilege to have  certain series in their own collection, along with books purchased specifically for or by themselves.  You should have seen the joy in Max’s face when he was allowed to put all the Mrs. Pigglewiggle books on his own shelves.

Don’t you think there is still plenty of room for books on all these shelves?  I mean — look closely.  There are holes!

What do you do?  Do you collect books, or do you love them and let them go?  Leave me a comment.

Leave a comment


  1. Ah-h, it does my heart good to see so many books in a house!
    I adore books — honest-to-goodness, physical books. (I’ve yet to jump on the e-reading wagon; reading a novel on a screen doesn’t feel quite *real* to me.) I’ve got a tall, overflowing bookcase in my room; two smaller cases downstairs that my mom bought just for me (love you to death, Mom); oh, the joy when my uncle came to build two more big ol’ sets of shelves down there (which have also proved handy for holding some of our old VHS collection); and all that’s barely the half of it.
    A beloved book is a beautiful physical presence — to hold, to caress, to gaze at…and most of all, to read. They’re great to buy new, or to discover used, or to borrow for a bit and then decide the story was just so delightful, you simply must obtain your own personal copy. I could ramble, but let’s wrap it up: Long live books! (:

  2. I agree with you: there are still so many holes in your bookshelves begging to be filled! 😉

    I wholeheartedly agree: there is something so much more wonderful about having a hard copy. Reading isn’t just about the story or the words: the beauty of reading also lies in the smell of the paper, the original illustrations, feeling the heftiness of a tome, being able to find the perfect spot in the house (or a park or the beach) that will be conducive to the full appreciation of the book you’re going to read. And often, you have to wait for the right mood. There is no joy in reading a good story quickly because you have to return it to the library soon. Sometimes books call you to them, sometimes I go to my bookshelves (sadly I still don’t have as many as yo do, but I am working towards it…) and choose what my soul needs, so I can fully immerse myself in the delight of a certain topic or story.
    My kids are still young (2.5yo and 4.5 yo), but every time we go to the library we borrow in excess of 20 books, and the ones we really like, we then search for on eBay or Amazon or second hand stores… So clearly they’re going down the right path 😉

    I just stumbled across your blog and really really like it 🙂

    All the best,

  3. Maggie

     /  May 6, 2012

    Wow, I am happy to see that there are still other people out there who are also still book crazy and even have more than we do!
    I know exactly how you feel and what you mean by buying books, it is just a complete feeling of peace holding a real book in your hands and the nice book smell that rises from the pages while you turn them over….
    I try to avoid going into bookstores, as almost every time I enter one I come back out with at least one or two more books,…..although I have to admit that homeschooling does not exactly help with cutting back in our book collection, so I am shopping online now instead, but I am more careful in what I buy and think it over at least for two days if we really need it, or if I can find the same information for free online.
    All in all, we also do LOVE books in our home!

    • What good advice to think it over for a couple of days first! I sometimes impulse buy online and then wish I had checked the library first!

  4. Oh, I totally agree. And you have LOTS of space for more books on those shelves; I’m jealous of all that space!

  5. I LOVE books. Like you, they are probably the only thing that is not limited by my need for less clutter. Books aren’t more stuff to me…they’re prized possessions! Glad to know I’m not the only one not feeling any affection for the e-reader craze. 🙂

  6. Bob

     /  May 6, 2012

    Most of what you mentioned is no longer an issue. Multiple people in the same house can share a e-book. You can give e-books, rent e-books, no time limits most of the time… What ever you can do with a physical book you can do with an e-book. Also, many are now adding illustrations as the power behind the e-books are getting better and displays improving. A few are even adding a page turning feel to them. Basically you can now get it all the same except for the weight and smell.

    All that said, I wouldn’t mind physical media if I have an abundance of room. In a small house, I just can’t fit it. Also, a lot of mine are manuals which come in really weird sizes for some reason which makes it difficult to shelve.

    I cleaned house, donated over 2.5 tons of books to the local library. I still have access that way most of the time if I want. I got back most of my house. The only physical books I keep now are some collector editions, and occasionally I’ll still read a few physical books… but then when finished to the library they go.

    • What a gift you gave to your community, then! It makes me feel quite selfish. I screen people before loaning books, because if they get dropped in the bathtub and ruined I feel like I’m losing a friend (either the book or the person that dropped it into the tub!) I would have a hard time sharing my books with the whole community.

  7. i love having our own books. I like the freedom of letting my little kids have access to their stories with the fear of them ruining a borrowed book. We don’t have the collection of books that you have, but my kids love the stories they are familiar with. It’s one thing to overload your house with too many plastic toys that just become unsightly clutter; it’s quite another to have a healthy selection of books and stories to go back to time and time again.

    • I don’t have little ones any more, but owning the books does give them the freedom to really enjoy them. It also teaches them how to treat books right, because they are exposed to lots of them!

  8. well, blush, as you can see from our library photos we collect them, thousands of them, a precious treasure indeed:)

  9. Up until last year, my family lived in apartments and moved fairly often. It wasn’t practical for us to keep more than a bookshelf’s worth. But now? YAY! I have a house with plenty of room for books.

    I do have a Kindle (love it!) and have more than 1,000 free titles on there, and use Shelfari to help me keep track of my ecollection and physical one.

    I plan to really load up on quality children’s books whenever I find some good titles at yard sales or used book stores. My parents have held onto a lot of my old favorites, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them again and put them in my house.

    That said, I think I’ll still cull my collection from time to time. I’d like to remove books that I didn’t like or won’t get read by anyone in my family ever, and replace them with books that will be used.

    Most of my purchases for myself are non-fiction. For my kids, it’s the great children’s books and future read-alouds.

  10. loragayle

     /  May 6, 2012

    I love this post and wholeheartedly agree with you! We are a family of booklovers and can hardly ever part with one. And I love to buy books. It doesn’t matter that our bookshelves are full, that will never stop me from buying more books! I like to be surrounded by my book *friends* in my home every day, to know that I can go get one or look something up or reread a favorite anytime I want to. I have not jumped on the ebook wagon myself, not that I am totally opposed, but it can’t possibly compare to holding a book in your hands or the smell of a bookstore or the look of beautiful and loved books on a bookshelf.

  11. Ahhh…I’ve feel like I have found a treasure of kindred spirits.
    One fun way we developed to pass along outgrown books is to have a swap with our homeschool friends. At various gatherings (Christmas party, Valentine’s Day, etc.) each child brings a wrapped book on their reading level to trade. It’s always a big hit, and because I thought of it, I’m the cool mom. (You have permission to steal the idea, if you want to be the cool mom in your homeschool group! *snicker*)

  12. We moved internationally last September, and since our relocation is temporary, we left the majority of our possessions in the States. Possessions, the way I use the word, refers in a large part to the books we had to leave behind. The lack of a public library in our area has necessitated that we read most of our books on an iPad. It doesn’t seem like reading to me! I miss everything about our books and our local library in the States, and am really looking forward to having access to _real_ books.

  13. Micah

     /  May 9, 2012

    I throw my lot (mostly) in with physical books, as well. We do own e-readers, and I think there are certain books for which they are ideal. But, for us those cases are limited, and actual real books still make up the vast majority of our collection.


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