A picture of Jessica Spencer looking sideways.

Why Book Buying Bans Are Privileged Statements

Ever had a ok-ok buying ban? Maybe you haven’t heard of them – when someone decides to not buy books for a period of time, they claim to be on a ‘book buying ban.’

Text reading Are Book Buying Bans a Sign of Privilege? over a sunset.
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Sometimes I feel like declaring a book buying ban comes with a sense of privilege. Generally, the person who’s self-imposing a ban on themselves is declaring that they’ve too many books and must stop buying them as they can’t read fast enough to keep up with all their new purchases.

Maybe I’m wrong, but to me that’s a strange, privileged statement to make. Not everybody can afford to buy physical books on a regular basis. They’re fairly expensive and not a priority for everyone.

Financial privilege is so easy to spot in book communities online already. Just look at Bookstagram – plenty of people taking beautiful photos of their books with pretty props and often a very good camera. The bigger your book collection, the wider range of photos you can take without repeating the same covers over and over. The people with the largest collections tend to have the biggest followings.

I’ve never understood the idea behind book buying bans anyway – if you’re not going to buy books in the near future, just don’t buy books. Why does this need to be declared? Making a video about it seems over-the-top, especially when there are updates involved.

I decided to have a chat about it on my BookTube channel, because I just don’t understand them. I gave my side as a very-broke BookTuber and explained why books aren’t a priority for me, so I can go months without buying books without ‘banning’ myself. Because really, if you haven’t got the money, you haven’t got the money. You’re not banning yourself – you’re just living within your means.

Do you think book buying bans make any sense? I’ve never seen a video on clothes buying bans or music buying bans. I just don’t see their purpose. Let me know what you think.

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07 comments on “Why Book Buying Bans Are Privileged Statements

  • Inge | The Belgian Reviewer , Direct link to comment

    I’ve never really thought much about this…. I think a book buying ban is not when you don’t have the money but when you do have the means but you choose not to buy any books anyway because you’ve bought so many already. It means there was already an excess of book buying before :-). I haven’t declared this but I did impose a sort of ‘Netgalley ban’ :-), I’d love to request, request, request but I’m not going to do so because it would mean stress and deadlines and too many books on my shelf :-).

    • Jessica Spencer , Direct link to comment

      I need a NetGalley ban too. My feedback rate is 35% at the moment as my Kindle died and then I lost the charger, so now I’ve loads of books to review and it’s just major stress.

  • Faye Catherine , Direct link to comment

    I feel you pal! I buy most of my books from the charity shop, but then, it still costs me quite a lot cause I’ll buy 10 for £1 each! I’m storing books I haven’t read on their side now, then I can see how many I’ve got to get through before it’s reasonable to buy more. If I don’t buy any for a while I don’t even consider mentioning it, because really who wants to hear it?! If people are shouting about banning themselves from buying books whilst drowning in Folio Society it definitely does feel a bit like, well, great for you that that’s your life! Some of us would love for books not to be considered a luxury and to go splash some dolla on those clothbound classics! I’d love to be like, opps I bought £50 worth of books by accident! It shows a bit of a disjoint from what the reality is for most people!

    • Jessica Spencer , Direct link to comment

      Thanks for this, because it’s made me feel like I’m not just being whingy now! Obviously it’d be great to be able to casually spend loads of money on books, but realistically it’s not a priority for most of us!

  • Anne , Direct link to comment

    I have been on a “book buying ban” a couple of times. I am a student and I live of off student loans, because my studies require too much time to actually be able to have the mental space to work next to it. I do buy too many books, and that is because I cannot seem to keep myself from spending my foodshop money on book bargains and such. Declaring a ban like that makes me feel like people will be able to hold me accountable for my bad spending behavior, and like that I can actually get through the month with my money. I am now working on not spending all my money on books, but it is hard. So I do truly understand how a book buying ban (when you have plenty of money anyway) is a privileged statement, but I also get that it is not always the case. For me it is a way of cheating the shopping addict in me.

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