Library Guilt

June 4, 2016 | By | 6 Replies More

Densie Webb_2013Like almost every other writer I know, I love to read. A good book recommendation from a good friend is better than chocolate (at least for me).  And I can become quite annoying talking about said book to anyone willing to listen.

I love holding books in my hands. I love sitting on the sofa with “devil dog” (the nickname is self explanatory) in my lap, turning the pages of a story that I just can’t put down. But here’s the thing—books are expensive, at least when you’re a book junkie and have to keep buying them to replenish your stash and feed the monkey on your back. Even ebooks are pricey if they’re from established authors, who have signed with one of the “big five” publishers.

With the exception of a few author friends and some authors that I simply must have  on my shelf, I feed my reading addiction by frequenting my local library branch. Interlibrary loan is my dealer. But each time I go online to place a book on hold, I feel a twinge of guilt for not supporting the author by forking over the dollars to buy the book. And I never admit on social media that I borrowed a book from the library, for fear the author will think me unsupportive.

A friend of mine, whom I’ve known for years, told me a while back that she downloaded my book when I was running a free promotion. I was taken aback—first that she couldn’t support me by forking over $2.99 for my ebook and second that she was basically telling me “I want to read your book, but only if it’s free.” And I wonder, am I doing the same, when I get it for free from the library?

I’ve also frequented “Half-Price Books,” a chain that does as it claims and sells books for half or less than the original sticker price. Before I started writing, I never gave it a second thought. Now I feel like a traitor to my tribe. At least when I use the library, the book has been purchased by the system. The author benefits not a penny from books resold at a discount chain.  I don’t go there so much anymore.

unnamed(1)I’ve seen all the price comparisons of say, a Starbuck’s Tall Latte costing more than many ebooks that often go for $1.99 or $2.99. It takes five minutes to make a latte and can take five years to create a novel. I, myself, am in the five-year category for my debut, “You’ll Be Thinking of Me.” The inequity is mind blowing.  And I berate myself for contributing to that gross inequality. But still, there are decisions to be made with the allotment of disposable income. If I could get that Tall Latte for free, you bet I would. But that’s not an option and if I’m going to my local coffee shop to write, I have to purchase a cup or they just might politely ask me to leave.

My justification for my frugal book buying habits is that if I love a book, if it takes me out of my everyday life, if it inspires me, makes me laugh, makes my heart ache,  keeps me up at night reading, I write a review on Amazon and Goodreads and I add it to my list of Books I Love on my website. I like to think of myself, then, as part of the author’s Street Team. I read the book for free and now I’m offering a bit of free promotion in return.

But, that doesn’t do away with the guilt completely. It’s still there, tapping me on the shoulder, whispering in my ear. So here’s my plan to banish my library guilt. If my book becomes a bestseller, if I get a three-book deal with a huge advance and each one is made into a blockbuster movie, I’ll buy all the books I want. Guilt-free. And I’ll shout about each of my purchases from the social media rooftops.

Until that day comes, however, I’m going to do my best to ignore the guilt pangs each time I click “hold that book.” After all, the library is giving me what I want and making me an offer I can’t refuse.

Densie Webb (not Denise) has spent a long career as a freelance nonfiction writer and editor. Her debut novel “You’ll Be Thinking of Me” was released by Soul Mate Publishing in January 2015. She is an avid walker (not of the dead variety), drinks too much coffee and has a small “devil dog” that keeps her on her toes. She is currently working on a second novel.

Find out more about her on her website and follow her on twitter


Tags: , , , ,

Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing

Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Heather says:

    Library guilt is real. But so are all the benefits of borrowing books from the library! Online promotion is a great (free!) way to support your favorite author, as are all those recommendations to friends and family. Not to mention, the greater circulation an author’s book has, the greater likelihood a librarian will choose to order the next book from that author. When I feel the sting of library guilt, I remind myself how many more books I can read and promote because of my fabulous library. I even proudly displayed a library copy of the last book I reviewed on my website. (It was The Lost Girls by Heather Young, and I highly recommend it!)

  2. Evie Gaughan says:

    Great post! I think libraries are the ideal place to experiment and check out books you mightn’t normally go for. I tend to buy novels that are a ‘sure thing’ for me, either I’m familiar with the genre or the author. But libraries are fantastic places for exploration and they’ve really helped me to broaden my tastes, which can only be a good thing. I believe libraries are there for that very reason: not everyone has much of a disposable income, but they don’t want to sacrifice their love of reading. This way, you don’t have to 🙂

  3. Cee Arr says:

    Not sure how it works in other countries, but here in the UK, authors are given a small annual fee for the lending out of their books from libraries (a small amount per time the title is borrowed,) – yes, there is a fee-cap of something like £6000 or £7000, but honestly, I’d take that if they won’t!

    • Densie Webb says:

      What an awesome idea! No, in the U.S. the author gets royalty when the library buys the book, but that’s it. The only lending royalty that I’m aware of, comes from the Amazon lending program and that’s based on the number of pages read. (They actually monitor that.)Thanks. Just learned something new.

  4. julie brown says:

    I agree! Long ago, I let go of guilt for using the library and for sharing books with friends. As an author who really does appreciate every person who purchases my book, I’m very happy if they borrow it, too. My hope is that they will write reviews and recommend the book to others.
    That said, I have come to the conclusion that many people (not all!) hate spending money on books. They splurge on all kinds of stuff (like overpriced coffee, food, clothes, etc) but balk at spending $12 or $15 on a book that can be enjoyed many times over. And free e-books are making it worse for authors. I’ve heard of readers who download hundreds of free ebooks. They’ll read a few pages and if it doesn’t grab them, they trash it. And why not? It cost nothing. How can a $2.99 kindle book, regardless of how excellent it might be, compete with free? Good article Densie – let’s connect! Best of luck, Julie Brown (author of The Long Dance Home)

    • Densie Webb says:

      Julie, so glad you enjoyed (and share) my take on “library guilt.” I think it’s based on empathy for the writer. As I said, never thought about it, until I became one myself. Thanks for stopping by!

Leave a Reply