What are the pros and cons of buying physical books vs. relying primarily on library books from the point of view of exposing one's future children to a wide variety of books?
A few years ago, I transitioned from buying many physical copies of books, to primarily relying on my library with a few e-book purchases here and there, mainly for vacations. Between my husband and I, we now own two small bookshelves of books. This suited our fairly itinerant grad student lifestyle and we enjoyed having fewer possessions to worry about. We've never had a problem getting interesting material to read on a regular basis from the library - we visit the library at least once a week, and between the two of us, have borrowed about 200 books from the library in the past year (we didn't get through all of them, but a fair chunk).
Growing up in India, our library system was poor to nonexistent, and my parents bought a lot
of books. Somehow, there was always a budget for more books, and we had thousands of books covering the entire house. In later years (after I left home), my parents grew tired of having to keep up with so many books, and they were all boxed away, never to be seen again. It was partly in reaction to that, that I started my policy of buying very few books, and relying mostly on the library (once I got to a place where there were decent libraries, anyway).
But looking back at my childhood now, I am really of two minds. I read so many books, simply because they were there
and I really feel I got a lot out of this kind of serendipitous discovery. My parents and I read many of the same books and could discuss them over meals. I could recommend good young adult fiction to my dad, and he would recommend good science fiction and fantasy to me. I read far, far above my grade level, simply because I was bored and there were so many adult books lying around. I enjoyed the feeling of a house filled with so many books - to me they were my friends and comfort, particularly the ones I reread. Some books were too advanced for me the first time I attempted them - I remember starting Pride and Prejudice at least five times before I finally got past the hump and realized how brilliant it was. Having so many books in the house allowed me to get to a particular book at my own pace, and when I truly wanted to read it.
I would love for my (future) children to get the same gift of this deep connection to books. Can that same sense of magic and discovery really be recreated in a house with few permanent books? This article
seems to suggest that if I want smart kids, I should buy lots of books, but the kinds of factors that produce smart kids are hard to separate completely from a tendency to buy books, so I remain skeptical that this is causative. I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue (and if this all a lost cause in the age of ubiquitous electronic devices, I'm willing to hear that too).