I walk through the bookstores and book fairs, noting down the titles of the books that interest me. Yes, as an avid reader from a middle-class family, it is not feasible for me to buy all the books that I want to read. Born into a family of readers, my relationship with books began when I was a toddler. I began reading, and when I was about 11 years old, I discovered my love for thrillers. Over the years, I have read so many books that I can’t keep track. The idea of having a reading room surrounded by books is a dream come true for me. But how could a middle-class girl afford to buy that many books?
Middle Class People Borrow From Library
My family has had memberships at three libraries for almost half a century. So, borrowing books from the library has been a family thing for us. Most paperbacks cost between Rs. 300 and Rs. 600, and hardcovers are obviously more expensive than that. Borrowing books is thus the default option for every middle-class reader. From James Patterson to JD Robb, all the books that I read cost about Rs. 600 each. I would rather borrow about 10–12 books from the library at the same cost. And if I want to read them again, I’ll simply borrow them again.
When comparing the prices of books in bookstores, book fairs, online shopping portals, and on Kindle, libraries are the most affordable. The best thing about it is that I can keep borrowing as many books as I want without having to really worry about the cost. The library that I regularly visit offers a lifetime membership with a refundable deposit of Rs. 500. I can pick 10 books per visit and have them for 15 days. I can get them renewed over the phone with no extra charges.
Chennai-based Bookstagrammer Sruthi says, “I can experiment with different genres when I borrow books from the library, as opposed to actually buying books. Usually, I read romance and thrillers, and I buy only books by famous authors for my work. Right now, I get the new releases for free, but when I started out as a bookstagrammer, I had to put my own money or borrow from my parents. So, at that time, borrowing from the library seemed like a perfect option, and it always does.”
“I remember this one incident that happened when Harry Porter and the Cursed Child was released. At that time, I had just taken a break from my job, and I obviously couldn’t take money from my savings. Being a Potterhead, I really wanted to get my hands on the book. Initially, only the hard copy was available, and it was very expensive. It cost about Rs. 1800, maybe more. I didn’t want to ask my parents, even though they would have gotten it for me. Since it was a play and not even a typical book, I had my doubts at that time about investing in it. So, I contacted the librarian, and he got me the book within less than a week,” said Sruthi.
Most middle-class families live in typical 2BHK homes, and storing hundreds of books is impossible. I barely have a proper space to store my academic books and the books that I regularly borrow from the library. Where will I possibly find the space to store the dozens of books that I read every year?
For book lovers, owning one’s own book is an incredible feeling. Books are treasured possessions that can be passed down through generations. Having our own library is a dream. For people who like writing in or underlining books, owning their own books is a huge advantage. But then, as someone from a middle-class family, that is definitely not affordable at all. Libraries are a huge blessing for people like us. How else could we appease our constant hunger for reading?
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