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Why I Buy Books


I have had friendly debates with Shane over at Greet Machine about buying books versus taking them out from the library. Shane works for the Library and as you can imagine, is a strong advocate for using libraries to fulfill your book reading needs. His argument, and it’s a good one, is why pay for a book when you can easily get it from a library? Furthermore, given the ease by which you can now look for library books on-line and have them delivered to your nearest library, the days of rifling through musty old stacks is long gone.

While acknowledging that Shane makes a strong case, (in fact I currently have 5 books out from three different libraries) I am still a book buyer. One, I am a notorious book re-reader and I love to go back to books I’ve read to re-read them whole or just chapters, passages even. Many times I will come across an item that reminded me of something I’ve read in a book I own and I need to revisit. Also, let’s face it, books in a book case look good in your living room and nothing says “hey look how smart I am? than bookcases overflowing with books. Finally there is something about pulling out a book to make your point in a discussion or argument or handing a book over to some one to enlighten them on a subject they are interested in.

I am reminded of this lately by a series of Nick Coleman articles in the Star Tribune. Last week, Nick Coleman wrote an article about Eric Sevareid, a Minnesota native who was recently commemorated by a stamp. Although a famous journalist, Sevareid first became known to Minnesotans as a teenager who, with a friend, paddled a canoe over 2000 miles from Fort Snelling to the Hudson Bay in 1930. He wrote about the trip in a book called Canoeing with the Cree and this book is the touchstone for any Minnesotan who is interested in canoeing, camping or roughing it in the great north woods. As Coleman wrote in his column, the book can be found “on the bookshelf in a lot of cabins and in the imaginations of Minnesotans.? This book and Sevareid’s adventures have literally thrilled boys (and girls) for generations. What is really interesting is that the book clearly still resonates today as Coleman followed up the original column with one this week about two boys who, having read the book in 7th grade, decided to recreate the trip. They graduated early from high school and started their journey this past Monday.

Canoeing with the Cree’s place in Minnesota life represents the greatest reason for owning books: The ability to say to your mom/dad/sister/ brother/son/daughter/spouse/friend “I loved this book and I think you will too, here’s a copy.? It’s that shared experience that binds us tighter, says to us, “we may have differences but we have a lot in common too.? Sure you can do that with a library book but a library book lacks that permanence, it limits the ability of the book recipient to one day pass the book on to another, to further the connection.


Huh. Good piece of writing there Tex. To tell people to buy books and then to praise Nick Coleman all in the same entry is quite a feat.

I can't argue with your reasoning. In fact, you could argue that if people didn't buy books, no one would write books. Therefore there would be no libraries. However, it is this very kind of book that I would try to persuade people not to buy. Our libraries in the Twin Cities probably have many, many copies of this book given its age and place in Minnesota history. What I would do is take my son to the library, walk my son down those musty stacks, and pick the book off the shelf saying, "You'll love this as much as I did. And when you're finished, there is so much more." To suggest that a "shared experience" can't happen this way is not accurate.

Anyway, I use libraries to support libraries. True, I also save money, but that is secondary to the joy I get from entering a library, browsing the stacks, taking a chance on a number of books, bringing them home, and demonstrating to my kids that learning never stops. And there is a place that makes that possible.

But that might just be me. Good entry Free!

I like libraries, but I'd like the Hennepin/Mpls system a lot more if they were open on Mondays.

I find it really hard to believe that more people would want to go to a library on Sunday than on Monday, especially the downtown one with all the business research you can do there.

I knew I'd get a rise out of you Shane! Question -- why can't you browse the shelves at a book store and have the same experience?

Snyder - business research? Can't you do that on-line?

Try checking out more of the second floor of the downtown library besides Teen Central sometime. An awful lot of that business and government stuff is not online.

And even if it is, librarians are still great for helping you figure out what's what. Right, Shane?

I browse the bookstore shelves too! But that is when I say to myself, "Why should I buy this book when I can get it for free?" In fact, I visit the U of M Bookstore a lot. I look at all the bestsellers, write down titles that I find interesting, and put them on hold at the library. It doesn't get much easier or cheaper than that!

I'm a big fan of my local library, and use it all the time. That said, now that I can afford it, I'm buying some books once in a while, partially for the reasons you mentioned, but also because I want to support these authors. In an age where fewer and fewer people are buying books, I'm voting with my dollars.

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