Thoughts on Browsing at the Library (and Bookstores)

"Thoughts on Browsing at the Library (or Bookstores)" (blog post by Brenna Pierson)

Digital books are convenient—and a lot of readers use a Kindle or similar electronic reader these days. But it’s worth it to touch on not only the experience of reading an actual paper book but on browsing through them.

Having volunteered at a library and a library bookstore at one point, I can say it’s possible to see the effect browsing books has on readers. When looking through books at the library, you just keep picking up one after the other—whether it’s because of their cover images, titles or whatever—but you keep picking them up. You turn the pages. You see more—and keep wanting to see more. That’s the magic of actually browsing through books (and magazines), whether it’s at the library or a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

There’s nothing awful about e-books—well, that depends on who you ask, but that’s another subject entirely. Here, let’s just focusing on the actual browsing. Browsing through the pages of a book, you either want to see more or don’t. If you don’t, there’s another one to pick up right there. You can get engrossed in looking at all the choices.

And while browsing online does kind of make you want to look more, it’s just not the same. It’s hard to get engrossed in browsing books online. It’s kind of like the difference between online clothes shopping and actually going to the mall. When you really want to shop, you go out and look around. When you shop for clothes online, it just seems to be lacking something. Not that you won’t ever shop online for the convenience, but there’s still a difference—no doubt.

Of course, actually browsing at a bookstore can lead to buying more books than you need—and in this minimalist culture that we seem to be living in, decluttering (which sadly includes books) has become a trend. Digital books serve that purpose, but certainly, browsing at the library doesn’t cause that problem—you’re only borrowing the book, anyway.

Sure, you can get so much information online at any time of day without even changing out of your pajamas. But don’t forget what it’s like to actually browse for books…or to go to a library, even if you don’t need to go. In fact, “just because” is probably the best reason to make the trip.