When was the last time you checked a book out of the library?
If it’s difficult for you to recall the last time you even stepped foot inside of a library, you’re not alone. With ebooks and book delivery services widely available, it’s easy to forget that the library is still a great resource for finding the perfect read. And let’s not forget, it’s free!
Centuries ago, libraries were one of the only places with collections of documents free to peruse. It was a place that molded some of the greatest minds. Oldest recently published a visual that breaks down some of the most invaluable libraries in the world, dating back to the 6th century.
I don’t know about you, but I myself always struggle when it comes to the decision of should I buy or borrow. And, if you’re anything like me, 94% of those decisions end up with a trip to the bookshop . . .
So let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
I love my local library – it has every book I ever want and it’s free. Yet, what is it about them that always makes me, well, not use them? You literally get free books, often in hardback, and you get to pretend your fancy carrying a tote bag around loaded with books on your way there and back. Sounds like a booklover’s paradise to me. I think the main unattractive feature of a library, is the fact that it’s not your book that your holding. Library copies are often tatty or misused . . . and sometimes have weird things stuck to the pages that you’d rather not think about. But why does it matter? You just read the words and move on, right? WRONG. For me, books are as much about owning them as about reading them. Therefore, a library for me is only useful for the books I’m unsure about and want to try before I buy. So maybe the actual ‘book’ part of a library isn’t what I really enjoy about them after all.
I’ve thought about this, and the only way I can explain my enjoyment of being in a library, is through the movie Matilda. If you’re familiar with the movie, you might remember this scene: when she’s little she goes to the library all the time, and there’s a beautiful montage of her traipsing around the library with a little pull-trailer that she loads up with books and then goes home again.
Being in a library is such a beautiful experience – it’s antique. And let’s not ignore the fact that there are so many beautiful libraries out there in the world that are basically what booklovers imagine heaven will be. Libraries are buildings filled with books, shelves upon shelves of well-loved and wonderful books. They’re what you want to create at home and they’re quiet, and organised, and just lovely places to be in. I think that is what is so great about them. I love to head down to my library when I find an ‘iffy’ book that I want to try, because it means I have free time to wonder along endless shelves filled with books and stroke their spines and read their blurbs. I mean, it’s just fun! I don’t think I’m alone in saying that libraries are some of the best places in the world because of the relaxing atmosphere of people finding and reading stories that they give off.
One of the trickiest situations that I find, is people giving you a book to borrow. Now, I’m not talking when you ask to borrow someone’s book – I specifically mean when someone goes “Hey, I read this and it’s great! You should check it out.” And you have a little 5 second panic as images of your enormous TBR* pile looms up in your mind.
Most of the time, I find this a little frustrating. I have so many books to read and a library full of temptations – so when someone thrusts a book upon I find myself with a book that isn’t new and special just for me, but neither one that I know I’ll love. But you just can’t quite find a way to say no. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to people offering me books but I desperately want to get through the hundreds that I have waiting for me on my bookshelf at home. The irony, of course, is that the books I’m given, nine times out of ten, I end up loving. It just becomes this added stress of oh god, now my TBR pile is even bigger! Mixed feelings is probably a very accurate way to describe my views on friends giving you books. In fact, I still have some books a friend gave me over a year ago . . . #priorities
So that leads me to my next point – bookshops. When you find a good bookshop, you’re essentially combining the two things you love the most: atmospheric libraries, and your own books (because, let’s face it, you’re going to buy at least one book each time you go into a store). The books are all fresh, all smell good, and all look shiny and amazing. The sad part is that they’re not free. Ah well, guess we can’t have everything. Online stores are my most frequented space on the internet because books are so much more expensive in the bookstores themselves.
My favourite bookstore in the world is Waterstones. The franchise doesn’t exist in Australia, much to my disappointment, so a trip to the UK will always involve a trip to Waterstones for me. I don’t know what it is about the store, but it’s so grand and there’s so much range. Earlier this year I went on a month-long trip to Italy and popped through Ireland on the way back. I visited the Cork Waterstones where I bought 10 (!!) books and a b-e-a-u-tiful tote bag (which is the haul featured at the top of the page). I could spend hours in that shop – it just has so much more on offer than my local store: Dymocks.
Dymocks is an Australian company and is pretty much the only ‘main stream’ bookstore for us Aussies to choose from. And it’s not particularly cheap. *Sigh*. Whilst I love Dymocks (how can I not?) in comparison to the wonders of Waterstones it’s much, much smaller. The selection isn’t as great and the stores aren’t exactly awe-inspiring. But the people are super friendly and I love the logo – so really, I’m clearly being too fussy. If Waterstones ever comes to Australia in my life, I think I will weep tears of joy. Truly.
Buuuut, the Book Depository is my shop of choice. An online store that ships for FREE to almost every country in the world – but more importantly, to Australia – it’s basically a unique phenomenon. Yes, now we do have shops such as Book World which has recently teamed up with Angus & Robertson, but the BD (as I like to call it) is the only shop where I can just buy one cheap book and pay no shipping. Hallelujah! Shipping is the plague of Australia: we live soo far away so it costs an arm and a leg to get anything. On top of that, I live in Western Australia – so I’m still realllly far away from the rest of the country = expensive internal shipping. It’s a lose-lose situation, really. Hence the BD is my absolute favourite. The range is basically endless, and the team is extraordinarily helpful. So as long as I’m prepared to wait at least 2 weeks for an order to arrive, I’m all set. If you’re looking for an amazing online site and don’t know about it yet, check it out for sure (link below). Of course, the only down side to online book shopping, is the non-existent library-experience. But for the sake of money, sacrifices must be made.
In answer to my own question: my favourite place to get books, is a bookshop. I love buying books. There’s just something so special about holding a physical book and gazing at your mini home library. And I don’t think that’ll ever change. As long as there are books to buy, my credit card shall be fit.
I’m going to compile a list of libraries and bookshops in an upcoming post, so keep an eye out for that one if you interested in some of the most amazing locations on earth (literally).
What do you think? What’s your favourite way to access books?