Buying vs. Borrowing

I was prompted to make this post because my library’s rules about borrowing from other county branches has changed.  When I was young, I was a weekly borrower; I used to skip excitedly down to the library every Saturday with whichever parent was taking me, and max out my card.  I would then look forward to the next week, when I would have inevitably have read everything I had borrowed, and itching to discover something new.



From the age of about nine onwards, my borrowing habits changed a little.  I was still an avid reader, but part of me wanted to add to my own library, as well as re-reading all of my mother’s old Enid Blytons and the like.  I read all the way through my teens, and would borrow the odd book from my school library, as well as squirrelling myself away in there every break and lunchtime and inhaling all of the stories I could.  I was still more of a buyer than a borrower, though.

When I started at University, I tended to buy all of my books.  Whilst I had access to quite a large library, it had zero fiction books upon its shelves. Zero.  I tended to purchase all of my books from Waterstone’s, charity shops and secondhand shops, of which the city I was in had many.  I also began to borrow the odd book from literary-minded friends.

As soon as I finished University, my book-buying became a little out of control.  I discovered both AwesomeBooks and AbeBooks at around this time, and marvelled at the fact that I could buy a book for around £2.49, including postage costs.  I did rejoin the library around a year later too, my card having expired due to lack of use, but found that I only picked up the odd volume here and there due to my local branch not having that much by way of stock.  I could request books from other branches, but a charge was put in place for every single one of these, and I deemed that actually, for me, it was better value to purchase my books so that I at least got to keep them afterwards.  There were also, of course, review copies, and I read a lot of free classics on my Kindle too.



From 2015 onwards, however, my reading changed.  Early in the year, I found that my library system had stopped charging for reservations, which pleased me greatly.  Suddenly, new worlds were available to me, and I didn’t have to travel to Cambridge’s central branch to borrow Persephones and the like.  I certainly made the most of it, borrowing around 300 books from the start of 2015 to July 2016.  I also underwent a project to read every single one of the books on my TBR without buying any more, and despite having to pick up a couple of volumes here and there for my studies, or for my dissertation, I have pretty much made it to the end of the list.

Sadly, in June of this year, the library started to charge for its reservations again.  Even if I want to reserve a book from my local branch, there is a £1 charge, and when you are as avid a reader as me, this just seems like money which could be spent on my own books.  I understand that libraries are severely underfunded, and it’s an awful thing, but I am less likely to borrow books now, unless they are in my local branch and I can find them myself.

For a couple of months over this summer, then, I began to buy books again, both from the Internet and from Oxfam Bookshops (participating, as I was, in their Scorching Summer Reads initiative).  I will be joining three libraries when I relocate to Glasgow, so I imagine that my reading will go back to being largely a free endeavour again, but I will be living near an Oxfam Bookshop, and I probably will have to pop in from time to time…



This has been rather a rambling post, in which I haven’t really come to any conclusions as to whether buying or borrowing books is better.  Let me address that now.  I love buying books, and whilst I purchase a lot less from full-price bookshops now (I am a student, after all!), I still love the thrill of finding something wonderful, especially if it’s an old or cheap edition (reiteration of the student thing…).  I also love borrowing, though; I am a big fan of selecting things from the library which I perhaps wouldn’t buy, but which sound interesting enough to take a chance on.  I don’t do this so much with books I read, as I like to be able to invest my money into something I know I will enjoy.  I also love supporting my local library as much as I can.

What are your thoughts on buying and borrowing?  Which do you prefer to do?  Which were the last books you bought, and the last books you borrowed?  How many libraries are you a member of, and what is your local library system like?


5 thoughts on “Buying vs. Borrowing

  1. The last book I bought was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr which was brilliant. A friend of mine has downsized and handed me two boxes of fantastic books which I am ready to plough through. I belong to two libraries and regularly go in, browse and borrow. So I guess I get books in various ways.

  2. When I was young and couldn’t afford books or couldn’t find the ones I wanted, I did rely on the library. And I still would if I could, but more often than not the local one doesn’t have the books I want, or if it does not when I want to read them. And since books are so cheap nowadays, and since I like having a library of my own to choose from as the mood takes me, I do tend to find myself buying rather than borrowing….

  3. I’ve developed a ranking system for buying versus borrowing. I think all the moving I had to do a few years ago killed my desire to just accumulate books for the sake of having them. Now I buy books in print when I know I will reread them and will lend them to others. I buy kindle books for series I enjoy and don’t want to wait for the library to stock.

    I borrow a ton of books from my libraries. (I belong to two.) Fortunately, neither of them charge for reserves. (I’ve never heard of this in the States. Is this common in the UK?) And I make use of interlibrary loan. Borrowing gives me a chance to read without committing to buying them. I get romance novels and nonfiction almost exclusively from libraries because I’m fairly sure I won’t reread them.

  4. Hi Kirsty! The last book I purchased is The Orphan Master by Jean Zimmerman. I really loved Savage Girl which she also wrote. The last two books I got from the library was a book you wrote a review on… The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman a young adult novel about a girl who is actually part dragon. Right now my mom informed me that I have a serial book buying addiction so she told me that if I buy two books I have to get rid of four books. Needless to say, I haven’t purchased that many new books. Sincerely, Nora

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