I was introduced to a woman at a friend’s birthday party a while ago. The host thought we should meet because we both love to read so much. I remember very little about her physically; slightly heavy build, brown hair, maybe in her late 40s. I don’t remember her name.

What I do remember, very clearly, was her declaration that she loves to read, but she never buys a book. She only borrows books from the library or from friends.

“I will never pay to read a book,” she said with an air of pride usually saved for actual accomplishments.

I have few regrets, but I have regretted that I never took her to task on her smug and ridiculous announcement. But it was a birthday party and I didn’t want to create any sort of social awkwardness, or more importantly, risk being tossed out before I had my fill of crab dip. So I will take her to task now, even though she isn’t likely to see it.

But I must begin with some disclaimers:

  • I read books from the library, and I borrow books from friends. Both are wonderful ways to be introduced to new books and new writers. I also do this because I can’t afford to buy every book I want to read.
  • I understand that some people can’t afford to buy books at all. Books are not inexpensive. If books don’t fit your budget you should never feel bad about borrowing them instead.
  • Some people enjoy reading and although they can afford to buy books, it’s not where they choose to put their money. Who am I to tell someone how they should spend their money?

The last disclaimer should have party lady covered, right? It’s her money, and she doesn’t want to buy books. None of my business.

Except that she was so freaking proud of it; and acting like the rest of us book buying chumps were being taken for fools. I wish I had asked her if she sneaks into movie theatres or dashes out of a restaurant without paying her bill.

People who buy books are the people supporting the writers who write them. Why does party lady get all the enjoyment without any contribution? Maybe the friends she borrows from would like her to be the one to pay for the book for once.

Imagine saying I love to bake, but I never buy any ingredients, I just borrow them from my neighbor.

It’s great to swap books with friends, and libraries are vital to ensure equal access to everyone in the community, but if you love to read, respect the writers who feed your habit, and buy a book from time to time.


(It is true that Canadian writers can participate in the Canada Council for the Arts Public Lending Right Program, which endeavors to pay authors based on library use, but it doesn’t match royalties, and doesn’t apply to writers from other countries.)

If you love books, buy them whenever you can
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