Like 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.
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.