I’ve felt for a while, especially as someone who mainly interacts with the book blogging community through Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube, that there seems to be an overwhelming emphasis on the attainment, rather than the enjoyment, of books.
Although I appreciate a good shelfie as much as the next bookworm – especially as they work as fantastic inspiration for how to organise my cheap ikea shelves in increasingly creative ways – hauls, posts about spending ‘every last penny’ a month on new releases and crazy TBR piles are far more common than fan art, reviews, or even discussions (obviously this is just my own personal experience of the community, which I appreciate depends entirely on who I’m following. Although I do completely relate to an overwhelming need to obtain works of literature, and therefore end up with shelves upon shelves of unread novels, we seem as a group to be not only normalising this behaviour, but encouraging it – the true mark of the modern bookworm is the one that is excessively spending and collecting.
I also see a lot of positivity posts on Tumblr regarding bookworms that can’t afford the latest releases, or special editions, or that worship their local library. Although I think these are fantastic, and it’s important to make any community feel welcoming and accessible to people from all backgrounds and lifestyles, there is still a heavy emphasis on can’t. That these people can’t afford these habits, that they would given they had the opportunity to. What about those who don’t want to?
This kind of conspicuous consumption is also encouraged by societal assumptions, where the reading of books, and even literacy itself, has for centuries been viewed as an occupation of the cultured and the academic in most societies. Where a fashion blogger who owned 200 pairs of shoes that she hardly ever wore would probably be ridiculed by others outside of that community as vapid and as wasting money (note that I’m not saying this is an appropriate reaction, but that’s for another post), whereas a book blogger with 200 unread books is seen as completely normal and relatable, and likely as intelligent and worldly by someone outside of it.
I’m not saying that I’m not guilty of these actions myself – far from it. But when you’re fighting a battle to actually appreciate and make use of the things you already own or can borrow from the library, it’s difficult to fight that wasteful, consumerist urge when it’s seen as normal and enviable in your online circles.
I’d love to know everyone else’s thoughts on the matter, so please feel free to join in on this discussion!