There is no doubt that we love reading and love books. Due to space constraints and lack of dusting motivation, we prefer to buy only those books which we know we will read again and again. Besides, we like the idea of supporting libraries as we believe they are intrinsic to the reader’s life and like the concept of having them around. However the e book lending libraries have been a game changer. The reader is now not only able to see where they are in the waiting list for a book and how many copies are in the library but also the approximate time frame when the book is likely to be available for download. This new way of borrowing gives one quite a perspective and insight into the pattern of book borrowing. In itself it could well become a study into the reading habits of types of people and genres of books borrowed.
The borrowing behaviour has certainly caught our attention and interest. While waiting for much in demand books, one is bound to speculate as to why it is taking so long! So, after a suitable amount of mulling over, we have figured there are three kinds of readers (feel free to add more categories) – the reader, the avid reader and then just the plain borrower who may or may not read what they have borrowed.
You also have roughly three categories of books – the ‘ooh I am reading it’ books, those are books that are popular for having won a big prize, or the biography of a famous person or the ‘in fashion’ self-help book, this category can sometime also include the latest bestseller. Then you have the ‘I am so smart I am reading…’ book which comprises of either literary fiction (read highbrow) or the Nasim Nicholas Taleb type of books. The final category are the genre fictions like fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries and thrillers.
It has been our experience that the genre fiction readers are the avid readers who believe a bookmark is an insult, food splashes on the book/e-reader and finger print smudges are all part of the deal. They will read through the night (under the bed covers and with a torch if necessary), while eating, riding the train and even surreptitiously at a meeting if they can manage it. What comes next rules their mind. These are the good souls who devour the books as soon as they get them and promptly return them to the library to make space for the next book. Waiting for a genre fiction book is very nice because you can see the waiting list numbers falling day by day. We have been waiting to read The Wicked King by Holly Black, the second book in a fantasy trilogy, and it’s a pleasure to wake up each morning and check how much closer we are to getting the book.
The ‘readers’ are the people who like to read and enjoy reading but do not necessarily have the time to read and are not the persons who will go to any lengths to make the time. They like reading classy stuff or informational books, literary fiction if it is fiction or in non fiction it will be Malcolm Gladwell, Naseem Nicholas Taleb, Yuval Noah Harari or Carlo Rovelli. They are not interested in grabbing these books as soon as they are published and may even have heard of them some years down the line. Once they have the book they will sit on it for ages. To be fair these are also not the kind of books which can be read in one sitting and the reader is required to ponder over whatever the author is saying or how beautifully the sentences are constructed. These books have long waiting lists in the library but few copies and take forever to come to you even if they have been around for a few years. We recently put in a request for ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles published in 2016, a book with excellent reviews, with old world charm and written by a known author. It also has a waiting list longer than one’s arm. We will be lucky if we get to see the book before the end of the year.
The final category is the ‘borrower’ or the ‘buyer’. These people do not read. They like to carry books around with them and tell people what they are reading but rarely do they move beyond the first few chapters. They will hold on to the book until the next ‘happening’ book or award winner is out and then move onto that. These are the books which are next to impossible to get hold of from the library. People just do not return them! We put our name on the waiting list for Becoming by Michelle Obama and even with a total of seventy(!) copies in the library we are nowhere worth mentioning on the list.
As a result of all this waiting and ruminating we feel compelled to give self serving advice to ‘the borrowers’ – Don’t be pretentious. Most people don’t bother reading these days in any case and will not be too impressed by your claims of reading the ‘in’ thing. Those who do read are able to pick up the subtle signs of a non reader so you can forget about impressing them. Do others a favour, return the book or get off the holding list, read the Wikipedia summary, a couple of reviews on Goodreads and find some quotes that should be enough to suitably impress your book club.