books stacked at bookstore

I love browsing brick-and-mortar bookstores, especially indie ones. It’s great to move through the cute spaces and notice which books are featured on tables, aisle ends, and face-front on shelves, and which are tucked away unobtrusively, lined up with a bunch of others. It’s great to see the staff picks to learn which books others have loved. There are the hardback books that you want now, and the paperbacks you waited months or even years for. There are the cloth bags and bookmarks and literary knickknacks.

You want everything. Everything is spanking new, and when it’s not—say, a corner is bent up on a book—you spurn it like an outcast. This is one of the few local shops with restrooms, clean ones at that. And in bookstores you can find people wearing fun, artsy clothing. Plus delicacies like wine and chocolate. But the main question is, to buy or not to buy?

The pros of buying: oh, the pleasure of spending money! The owning of a pretty thing! You just supported a small business that you love! You can take as long as you want to read your new book! You can write in it, and, if you want, which you don’t, you can drag it through the mud!

The pros of not buying: oh, the efficiency of saving money! The ability, probably, to get nearly the same thing for free from the library—with all the inconveniences of libraries, like due dates and hold times. Less clutter in your home. You can’t write in it, but maybe you don’t want to anyway. You can’t savor it as you savor something that’s yours; but maybe you have enough to savor already. And what if you buy it and don’t like it?

A little confession: I just bought three books from one indie, and three books from another indie, and I picked up eight books from the library. I know, I’m a literary glutton. What am I supposed to do with 14 books, read them all at once?

To buy or not to buy?