Why will we never stop buying books?
Reading has acquired the label of a dying hobby. The debates on traditional vs. digital don’t seem to end. Yet, we continue to follow authors on Twitter, attend book fairs, discuss the merits of books vs. films adaptations, nurture the dream to be an author, one day, and most importantly continue to buy books. Why? Because we all have to tales to tell — of that one library book we paid a hefty fine on, of that novel that a neighbour borrowed and never returned, of the title we picked out of obligation at a book launch, et al.
Let’s just say we can all be divided into two broad categories — readers and non-readers, and both buy books for different reasons.
A few like to own the collectors’ items only — the first copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Many keep copies of titles like The Blue Umbrella or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer stay in their homes for it reminds them of a certain time during their growing up years. Then there are those, who buy books but never read them. Trust the Japanese to have a word for the same — tsundoku — the act of acquiring of reading materials followed by letting them pile up and subsequently never reading them. In the same category, probably fall those people, who don’t cook but buy cookery books — it’s calming to flip through them, say the cookbook collectors. Lately, many adults have secured themselves their share of colouring books as well. A few of us buy books as an impulse. At airports, when we get bored with fragrances, watches, and chocolates we pick up a bestseller from the stand. We may fall asleep during the flight or watch a film, instead, yet we end up making that purchase. A recent study by The Codex Group found that 22% of survey respondents purchased a book on impulse.
Peer pressure leads to certain purchases as well. I also know of adults, who started reading/buying, when they had kids — to inculcate the habit in their children. Comic lovers may not take anything other than comics (and lately graphic novels) seriously, but the knowledge these nerds possess about characters, history, and dialogue can leave you in awe. Those who don’t have the time and patience to read are opting for audiobooks — playing in the background as they do their chores or brave traffic. The Kindle readers, even the half-hearted lovers, hit ‘Buy’ for the free books. There are also those who enter a bookstore when they have to buy a gift, for a friend, the book lover. Of course, there are the readers, who wait for their favourite books to become available — they pre-order the titles. The voracious readers label their purchases as a basic need, like groceries.
In short, at least in the near future, we will not stop buying books. The good news here is that irrespective of our reading habits, our homes will continue to house piles of consumed and unconsumed bits of culture. And with that, the doors to exploring and learning will always stay open.
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.