Booktube Guilt

filofax printable library haul

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 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.

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  • Mackenzie

    I’m so glad you posted this! There’s been a couple of books I’ve wanted to read lately but I feel bad buying them because my shelves are jam packed.

    For some reason I never think about going to the library, but this is a great argument for why they exist! Guess where I’ll be going this week :)

    • / Kristin

      I’m always impressed at how up to date and plain ol’ cool the library has gotten too (one near me has weekly new releases in comic books!) – go hit up that library and enjoy!

  • ♡ Kristin ♡

    I totally know what you mean! My book buying habits actually haven’t changed too much since joining BookTube (I’ve always gone overboard with book buying – the only thing that’s different is I seem to buy more novels and less graphic novels) but my Dad used to work for a book company so I would get a free box of books each week and I guess I’m just used to that so once he stopped working there, I’ve always chosen to allot most of my discretionary income to books. Unfortunately, I leave for work at 6:30 AM and I don’t get home until 7:30 PM so my local library isn’t open during the week when I would have time to go otherwise I would love to! :-( I’m not sure if you’re aware of her but Trina from Between Chapters uses library books in just about every video and I really love her channel! I don’t think it should matter to a viewer what type of book is being held up, it’s really about the insight of the reviewer and their personality that keeps people watching! Plus I think we’re both on the same page about BookTube being a fun thing and not ever turning into a full time job. It would be cool in theory but health benefits / steady income is really hard to walk away from!

    • / Kristin

      I’m all for still buying books (it’d be silly to say I’d never buy one again; there are merits to owning a copy, for sure). Lately it’s been more a compulsion to buy things and then I look at the stack sitting near my door that I want to take to donate; pretty as Winterspell, for instance, was, I shouldn’t have bought it, you know? That’s awesome that your dad used to bring books home each week, though!

      I am HORRIBLE at watching new Youtube channels, so I’ll have to check Between Chapters out. Really, I’ll take any Youtube recs, book-related or no. And yeah, until Youtube can offer benefits or we become filthy rich Internet celebrities and can just buy our own private hospital, full-time jobs are nice :)

  • Laura Trujillo

    This really resonated with me- both the deep love for my neighborhood’s library, and the joy-thief that is comparison. Thanks for sharing!

    • / Kristin

      Glad you could relate! Though hopefully the comparison joy-thief doesn’t get to you too badly!

  • gamerwife

    It’s so easy to be influenced by what others in your community are doing, even when it doesn’t resonate with your values (see: my totally useless collection of vinyl toys). I like buying physical copies of books I know I’ll love so that I can lend them to my friends and help to share the book love.

    • / Kristin

      That is a really nice reason for having physical copies of books. You’re kind of a local library yourself :)

  • Kay

    I feel like online communities, no matter what the focus, can always lead to some form of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mindset. Don’t get me wrong, I love the communities I’m a part of but I agree with you completely that sometimes it can cause feelings of I SHOULD be doing something vs. what I want to be doing.

    I love that you have an awesome library to utilize! I guess one of the downsides to living in a very small town is that our library is quite tiny too…with very poor selection. It does have a few books that I’d like to read, and I definitely want to make it a point to start utilizing it once I cut down on my already full TBR shelf at home. I think my biggest book goal this year is to actually get rid of books I know I won’t reread. I have the tendency to just keep ALL THE BOOKS for some reason, even though I have so many I know I have no interest in re-reading. Hopefully I can donate them to our little library!

    • / Kristin

      Some books just feel GOOD to keep, even if you don’t necessarily want to re-read them all the time. But there are those that you read that you’re like “Ugh, okay, read that one. It was okay. Never need to read it again” that start to add up and make you question why you buy books xD

      Does your local library partner with a larger network at all? Mine’s really tiny, but the county libraries are all connected and you can check out books from other branches and they’ll ship them in. Takes maybe a few extra days, but it’s really expanded what’s available. Plus they actually team up with the bigger metropolitan library system to offer basically what I had access to in college, which was a TON.

      • Kay

        Oooo I’m not sure, but I’ll definitely look into it! That would certainly expand my options for taking out books! Thanks for the tip!

  • Anne Kooistra

    Interesting discussion! I totally recognise that feeling of book buying guilt, mostly because books are expensive and I’m just a poor student, haha. I wouldn’t feel too bad about filming videos with library books, though – I don’t think anyone will care about that as long as they like what you have to say! I do get it though. I let myself be influenced by other bloggers SO often, while just doing what YOU want to do is much better :)

    • / Kristin

      Expensive, for sure! A little $7 trade paperback looks innocent enough even, until you come home with a stack! I would so not survive in say, printing-press times, I’d be book/knowledge poor instantly.

  • Sara Strauss

    God, yes!! Since joining the book community more on Goodreads, blogging, and bookstagram I’ve come to own a lot more books that I did before. I’ve definitely been to the library a lot less and to Barnes and Noble a lot more. I’m running out of money and room, so I’ve decided to get the book via the library first or ebook (if it’s cheap) and then if I really, really love the book and want a copy then buy it. :)

    • / Kristin

      That’s a great system, Sara, and I think one that I’ve started unconsciously adopting too. Like, I’ve got to vet the book first.

  • Jamie

    I love the fact that you use the library! I didn’t even notice the library sticker at all on your books. I would honestly rather borrow books than buy them

    • / Kristin

      Lately I haven’t been using the library, but back when I first started I borrowed books all the time! It just makes more sense, and is something I definitely need to get back to doing that!

  • Kate Brown

    I used to work at a bookstore, so I always borrowed the books to read. It was an interesting perspective to watch book tubers haul their new books when I knew how much money they were actually spending on them. Like you said, sure it’s nice to have a library of books, but a lot of the books I read I haven’t kept because not all of them impact me to the point of wanting to keep or reread them. I just don’t see the purpose.

    • / Kristin

      Part of me always felt guilty if I had down time and read (most of) a book while I killed time in Barnes & Noble or the like. But really, spending a huge amount of money on a book haul is guilt-wracking in a different way.

      • Kate Brown

        I 100% agree. There’s a reason we have libraries and digital media. It’s far more affordable.