Stark vs. Lannister. The Avengers vs. Thanos. Millennials vs. Crippling Anxiety. These are the biggest bouts of our time, waged on the silver screen, HBO Max, and in drab cubicles around the world. And today, The Quill To Live adds another revolutionary battle to the list: Libraries vs. Bookstores. Where do you fall? Do you prefer to shell out your cold hard cash for that fresh new book smell? Or do you wander the labyrinthine shelves of your local library for a new favorite read?
Here’s where two of our writers–Bookstore aficionado Cole and Library card-holder Brandee– stand and why. Peruse our arguments and let us know which side you choose in this ages-old bookish battle.
Bookstore: The Library of Chateau Rush
As much as I love to wander the shelves of any bookish locale–be it a library or a bookstore– nothing quite compares to scanning my own shelves, or, as I call them collectively, the Chateau Rush Library. For me, bookstores present the opportunity to create my very own mini-library, which by extension I can use to recommend and lend books to my friends and family. When a bookworm visits my house, we can bond over my collection, talk about our shared hobby, and exchange recommendations. It’s a conversation starter and a decorative cornerstone in my home.
And, of course, I am free to select from more than 400 books when it’s time to find a new read, all without leaving my house. Buying books builds me my own personal library, and I adore the collecting aspect of my reading hobby.
One last perk: my extensive personal library gives me plenty of fodder for the @BookRush TikTok account I run with my sister.
Library: Keep The Change
Cole says his personal library is full of TikTok content, but his followers only see the books he’s enjoyed. Hmmm, curious. What about the bad ones taking up real estate in the Chateau Rush Library? It hurts my heart, soul, and digital wallet when I buy a book that flops. It then sits on my shelf, reminding me day after day about how much it let me down. When it comes to picking books the odds aren’t always in my favor, but this is why I love the library! I can hold that library card close to my chest, rent books, and indulge in the carefree exploration of my TBR without sacrificing space in my wallet or on my shelves. I’m a born and raised Las Vegan, so I know a good bet when I see one. Libraries are a cost-friendly option that allows me to go all in. No longer do I argue silently with myself to justify purchases in the bookstore. I can try a new read or several without a second thought.
Libraries also guarantee guilt-free exchanges. That bad book I took a chance on hurts so much less when money was never a part of the equation. The best part is I don’t have to keep the book around, it gets returned to the library while I rent something else to quickly fill the void.
Bookstore: Deadlines, Schmedlines
Actual quote from Brandee: “Oh nooooo I haven’t finished the book and the library is sending someone to my house to collect a bounty on my head, what ever will I do?*”
*Sources have been unable to confirm whether Brandee actually said this.
I get the appeal of libraries, of having unfettered access to thousands of books. But I’m a meandering reader. My path through fantasy and sci-fi is winding and long. I always move forward, but my pace varies based on what I’m reading. In other words, I can’t bear to be shackled by time constraints when I read. If I need 6 weeks to read The Great Book of Amber, I’m going to take that time. I deal with deadlines daily, and they work as far as turning in assignments or getting a job done. But a library-imposed return deadline, to me, makes reading feel like work.
When a book feels like work, it siphons a significant portion of my reading-related joy. I can’t focus on the story, the characters, or the themes because “OMG I have to finish this by Thursday.” Deadlines register as menial tasks in my head. Instead, I prefer the no-strings-attached method of buying a book and letting it stew on my shelves until just the right time. There’s even a Japanese word for buying books that you won’t read for a long time/will never get to: “Tsundoku.”
For me, buying a book is an investment in hours of enjoyment far into the future. As long as I have shelves stacked with novels, I know I’ll never be bored and I’ll never have to wait months for a book only to read it in a hurry so I can return it on time.
Library: Reading Achievement Unlocked
I bet there are hundreds of books sitting on Cole’s shelf that he hasn’t even read yet. Shame, shame, shame. The library doesn’t condone that type of behavior. Sure, wander through a bookstore and buy a book you won’t pick up for eight months. But check out a book from the library, and the countdown officially begins. The due date has been set and this book will be marked “read” on my Goodreads in a matter of days. I’m committed. Full send.
I never fail to reach my yearly reading goal because those due dates keep me on track. My TBR is too long for me to waste time, and my local library is holding me accountable. I’m motivated every day to make progress in my current book because I know I won’t have it forever. Listen, I haven’t even made it halfway through QTL’s tier one reads yet, and new books are being published every month. The library is making sure no book goes unread as I move and groove through my TBR.
Bookstore: Supporting Small Businesses
Another actual quote**: “Hello, I am Brandee and I don’t trust tier one authors enough to actually buy their books.” Call it a personal revolution, an epiphany, or “having a conscience and some disposable income,” but I experienced a seismic shift in my thinking over the past few years. I, like many, realized that Amazon (and other big corporations) have a death grip on society. The cold hand of small business death threatens myriad industries, including my beloved indie bookstores.
**Again, sources have been unable to confirm whether Brandee actually said this.
Thanks to this shift in thinking, I’ve made a significant effort to find new reads at my favorite indie bookstores. Buying books offers the opportunity to support small businesses and build my collection as I mentioned in my sections above. This benefit is twofold, though. I get to support these businesses (both locally and via online shopping at Bookshop.org) and explore the wonderful bookish destinations close to home and anywhere I’m lucky enough to travel.
Library: Know It All
The hipsters who visit indie bookstores like to think they know it all, but they most certainly do not. Everyone wants to look cool sipping their coffee in some underground bookstore, but what did they get out of it other than an Instagram post? Let’s expand the mind a bit more. The moment you walk through a library’s non-descript doors you are guaranteed to learn something. This powerhouse productivity palace is bursting with resources. Flash that library card and you’re granted VIP access to treasure troves of knowledge. There are free classes and activities. Attend a creative writing workshop, join a book club, hear from a local author, or entertain your little ones during storytime. My local library even hosts a Cats & Coffee meetup! There are so many unique activities to keep you entertained and most events can be safely attended virtually now too.
Maybe I’m weird, but my favorite part of the library (outside of books) is the study rooms. Okay, I’m weird. But seriously have you ever booked a study room? Those little boxes are MAGICAL. It’s like my productivity level triples in that space. I guarantee you will get some work done. Write your next book, study for a test, or practice that new language you’re learning. You will walk out of there with more knowledge than you had to begin with.
Where Do You Stand?
We’ve duked it out over our preferences in this post, but we want to know how you feel. Are you a library fanatic or a bookstore maniac / little bit of both? Tell us in the comments!