The Booktube community, like most communities online, is a wonderfully magical place for people of a common interest to unite and chatter excitedly about the things that they love, to create and make and share. But just like any online community, just like any anything, for that matter, there comes with that idyllic outlet a sense of guilt and comparison.
I’m not huge in the Booktube community, and frankly, am too busy with my own life, blog, and business to spend the amount of time required to try to “make it big”. Those community “celebrities”, or bloggers and vloggers who have made a name for themselves in this niche? Awesome! I’m glad for them! Even though that’s not where I’m at and I recognize the need to do what’s best for me, there’s still a silly little nagging comparison that crept out of the woodwork when even I didn’t expect it: book buying guilt.
Shiny new, hardcover pre-orders. Perfectly maintained, yet overflowing bookshelves. Multiple copies of books.
All my life I’ve enjoyed my local library for the access it’s given me to books — old, new, obscure, popular. It was a community resource that meant that I never had to be without a book I wanted. I’m not going to get into the value of libraries as community resources in general today, but it’s worth noting that libraries do a heck of a lot.
But for some reason, when I started filming Booktube videos and reviews, the little call number sticker on the spine of my book started bothering me. No one else’s videos had library stickers on them. It’s not like I couldn’t afford buying the books, or didn’t have the space. Every time I read a book, it became a race to film the review before I had to return the books. Excuses, excuses.
One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was dropping ridiculous amounts of money on new books at the bookstore. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, local stores — it didn’t matter where.
About a solid year later: I haven’t noticed a difference. My channel isn’t more popular because I own a copy of a book versus borrowed it. I haven’t magically been able to read more books or be a more awesome person. I just own more books.
What do I really get out of owning more books? Sure, I love my bookshelves. I like collecting books. But having a physical copy of a book I end up not even liking doesn’t mean a thing. And like it or not, one day I will run out of space.
And you know what? The more I think about it, the more I realize I miss my library.
With the library, I don’t have to commit to buying books I’m not sure if I’ll like. I don’t have to clear room on my bookshelf. I don’t have to spend money unnecessarily. I can check out mostly anything on the planet. I have some added motivation to finish books. The book isn’t “better” because I own it.
That’s not to say I won’t ever buy a book again, it just means I’m becoming more mindful and selective of what I buy. The next book in a series I already know I enjoy? A special collector’s edition or signed copy of a favorite? A book that the local libraries don’t carry?
I’m not saying buying books is bad. Don’t get me wrong — I love the Booktube community, and what people decide to spend their money on is their business. I know I’ve had feelings of guilt, however, through my time participating, just because comparison is a thing that we humans do. I know I’m not alone in feeling this “buyer’s guilt”. But feeling as if you can’t participate in a community or aren’t good enough because you don’t have the means to/want to/alien abductors won’t let you buy a book versus check it out from the library shouldn’t cripple your desire to want to participate in a community. Guilt shouldn’t dictate what you do.