On Supporting Books Without Buying Books

Last month Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner shared some thoughts on how being unemployed changed her reading (more specifically her book buying) habits. It’s a very thoughtful, honest post and it touched on a few things I’d been thinking about for a while myself.

Here’s the thing: I identify as a blogger, a reader and a librarian.

I do not identify as a book buyer.

I love books. I love reading. But I can’t buy books with wild abandon.

I tried to be but my mother and I share a small NYC apartment so there is just no space to buy tons of books. Since I was 14 I’ve had a rule where I can only buy books that I have either read already or know I will love. That strategy went out the window a bit while I worked at a bookstore and had an employee discount (literally this was the only perk–it was a terrible job) and access to hundreds of signed books. The temptation was far too great.

But it’s been a year or so since I left that job. Money and space are tight; I’ve gone back to by non-book-buying ways. For a while I budgeted a book a month but given the review copies and Advanced Reader Copies that come in and that I have to wade through, that was still too much. Now it more depends on events and things coming out.

Also: If I bring one book into the house I’m trying to get rid of at least five. This has been torture but my piles are finally all actually on shelves and it feels like I might actually read all of the books I have lying around in my lifetime. (That will completely be blown apart come BEA 2014 but I’m trying not to think about that and I’m not even adding new books to my goodreads to read queue and just generally avoiding new book talk to try and focus on what already exists and is taking up space in my house.)

Now a big part of supporting an author or a book does come with buying books or using a library copy. I don’t often do either. I get books from publishers through publicists or Amazon Vine or BEA. I get books from other librarians at Shiny New Job. I get books as gifts or trades from friends. I don’t have the money to “upgrade” from ARCs to finished copies so a lot of my books aren’t actually books–they’re galleys. (Granted a lot of them are signed but that’s a whole other bag of chips.)

For a while I felt really guilty about all that. Then I did more thinking. I looked at my blog. I looked at the authors I had interviewed. I thought about the books I recommended to people on goodreads or in blog comments.

It isn’t the same as buying books. It isn’t even the same as going to the library. But I realized I do support books and authors I love. Not always in tangible ways but by talking about them and sharing them. It’s still not always ideal getting an ARC signed for a blog giveaway or showing up at a bookstore for an event without buying anything (I do this a lot at the bookstore where I used to work because of the blood, sweat and tears factor–I figure it’s allowed in that one case). But it’s something.

So what do YOU, dear readers, think about supporting books? Is monetary support required? Are you a monster if you give away (or even get) a signed ARC? Let’s talk it out in the comments!