There are a few books that having digested their library-lent copies, I’m contemplating buying for my own shelves. The motivation behind such purchases is always that I’ll be re-reading these books, perhaps using them as references for periodic check ins. How often such motivation is born out by experience remains an open question.
For shame, I don’t re-read books very often. In this way, I’m probably typifying the long-term trend of people reading more extensively but less intensively compared with their forebears some hundreds of odd years ago. People who lived then usually had but a Bible or almanac for which they read and re-read throughout their lives (if they happened to be literate). Today we have lots of read. There are people who bemoan (in sick pleasure, it sometimes appears) about how little we read. These people would have even more cause for alarm were they to look into how little we re-read. My reading patterns would make them weep!
Still I’m optimistic that the books I’m going to buy are not going just sit on my shelves, sunbathing, rarely impressing anybody nor adding much to the decor of the room. By golly, they will be used! I have every reason to be optimistic. Take for instance Jessica Litman’s Digital Copyright. Not only is this book a fascinating read the first time through, full of stuff I newly learned, but it’s also then popped up again in multiple other books I’ve read. The book is obviously both on a topic for which I have an abiding interest and an important work by the standards of intellectual property rights professionals. If all else fails (and here I throw up my hands in resignation), then at least by owning the book, I get the “moving it around” benefit that Umberto Eco speaks of. But “all else” shouldn’t fail, right?