Are you familiar with the word? If not, it’s a noun, meaning the desire to collect as many books as possible.
I was going to ask are you a victim? But the word victim makes it sound bad doesn’t it. Is it a bad thing? To collect more and more books? What do you think?
When I first came across the term I didn’t think it was a bad thing at all. In fact, I thought it was cute to have a fun word to sum up owning lots and lots of books. There are endless memes online relating to the overwhelming urge to purchase books and I don’t know about you but I can’t look at social media without seeing hundreds of posts about TBR (to be read) stacks or piles of the same book bought again simply because the cover or edition is different and it can be added to a collection.
I’m guilty of purchasing multiple copies of the same book purely because I wanted a collection of different covers. I’m also guilty of continuing to purchase books despite having a whole bunch that have sat unread on my bookshelf for the longest time! I even wrote a blog post called the books I plan on reading this year where I listed some that I haven’t got round to reading that I wanted to prioritise before I read anything new. You know that certain titles have sat on your shelf for too long unread if you feel compelled to write a blog post on it to help make you finally peel back the cover! I have done pretty well so far but guess what? I have continued buying new books so now I have even more unread books on my shelf!
I also wrote a post on tsundoku, the act of buying books and allowing them to pile up without ever reading them. I confessed in that post to doing this as well so let’s just say I have a bit of experience with hoarding books. I always just thought it’s one of those things though, there’s not really any harm in it and lots of people collect stuff so why not books?
But then I looked into it a little deeper and I was quite surprised by what I found.
It turns out that bibliomania isn’t just a fun little word after all. It is synonymous with obsessive behaviour and can have quite negative connotations. I suppose this would depend on the context it is used in, just like a lot of words, just like the word obsessive in fact. It’s quite a throwaway word. How often do we say ‘I’m obsessed’ in relation to a TV show, an item of clothing, a cocktail? We mean no harm by this of course but if we consider that to be obsessed is to be entirely consumed with something or the thought of something then it quickly becomes a much darker word doesn’t it?
Therefore, if bibliomania is the obsession with collecting books is it as fun as it first appears? Or is it a symptom of something darker within a person? An inability to control a compulsion?
I have found out that bibliomania is something that has never been classified medically, although, it was widely feared back in the 1800’s when the term was first used and today it has been linked with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), a mental health condition where a person of any age or gender suffers from obsessive thoughts causing compulsive behaviour. With this in mind it again leaves me feeling less like bibliomania is fun and cute.
Apparently, not only do bibliomaniacs collect certain sizes or types of books, they also scout out and source rare copies of a title and first editions. This, as I’m sure you are already aware, can be extremely expensive, which left me wondering about the financial risks associated with bibliomania. It seems that there is a very real possibility that purchasing could manifest into theft if financial resources run out.
Are these fair concerns? Or is this all a bit dramatic? Perhaps they are outdated concerns that don’t hold any weight in today’s society. That, I suppose, is up to you to decide.
I’m sitting on the fence to be honest. I’m not sure how I feel about it all, I can see both sides of the argument and it leaves me struggling to form a solid opinion. That’s partly why I wrote this post, I wanted to hear the opinions of other people to see if it would help me make up my mind.
With that being said, please share your thoughts in the comments, I would love to learn your interpretations!
I hope that you have enjoyed reading this.
Until the next time…Jess x