Thursday, January 28, 2010

In Which I Overcome My Book Envy (or at least try)

I apologize in advance for the somewhat personal and philosophical nature of this post. But, it was screaming to be written.

The buzz from ALA Midwinter is not quite gone. I sat, with many others, in anticipation of the announcement of the award winners.  I read the posts of those who were there, mixing with fellow librarians, listening to new ideas, and best of all, browsing the exhibitions.  

But, when the lucky attendees began listing the "prizes" they came home with, I felt something growing in my heart.  Yes, it was Book Envy. 

For those of you unfamiliar with this phenomenon, let me describe some of the symptoms:

1 - Do you ever find yourself reading a review of a book not yet released and thinking "Man, I need to get a copy of that, because it sounds like exactly something I would like and why hasn't the publisher sent me one too, knowing as I am sure they do that I would love it?"

2 - When you peruse your friendly neighborhood book blogs, do you continually need to wipe drool from your chin, particularly when you find In My Mailbox or Mailbox Monday posts?

3 - Immediately following ALA conferences or BEA or other large book fairs, do you find yourself staring forlornly at posts recapping the goodies they have brought home?

If you have experienced any of the above symptoms, you may be suffering from Book Envy.

Back to ALA Midwinter (the source of my recent illness).  Unfortunately, several factors prevented me from attending.  I will list them, at the risk of sounding very sorry for myself.  (You may skip this section if you desire.)

1 - I am not currently a member of ALA (oh, the shame)

2 - I would like to be a member, but have not yet managed to scrape together the funds required to pay the yearly dues (which, considering how reasonable they are, is really quite sad, but I refer you to #3 for some explanation).

3 - My husband is in school (and plans to be for the next few years).

4 - Considering the implications of #2, it should be obvious that I could not even begin to contemplate the price of attending the conference, let alone the price of a cross-country ticket to Boston. 

Now, ever since reading of the delights of those who attended, I have felt festering in me, this dreadful envy.  I will admit, though I really shouldn't, that this envy is almost exclusively for the lovely stacks of ARCs.  What of networking and continuing my education?  What of expanding my knowledge and gaining insights into new advances in the field?  No, secretly, it is all for the ARCs.  I am already anticipating with equal measures of dread and excitement the delightful recaps of those fortunate enough to attend BEA in NYC this spring.  For obvious reasons (see #3 and #4 above), I will not be going.

And, having looked hopefully ahead to ALA's Annual Conference this summer, I was unhappy enough to realize it would fall prey to the same misfortunes mentioned in #4 above.  There is a remote, though more likely, chance I may be able to scrape out to ALA's 2011 Midwinter Conference in San Diego, but my life is such that planning a year in advance is futile.  

*Drags self out of large pool of pity* 

Now that I have laid before you the guilt in my heart and probably wallowed far too long in my financial woes, let me now expound on how I am dealing with my current and anticipated future Book Envy.

First of all, I must mention that I am very happy to have a job at present.  Really, considering economical situations around the country (and the world), I am quite fortunate.  While the job is not precisely where I would like to be right now, it has provided for our financial needs very well.  

Second, I happen to live in a place that allows me the use of two public libraries.  There is one in my city and one about 15 minutes away in a neighboring city.  Both of these beautiful places have provided me with thousands of free books.  The value of libraries, I think, is vastly underestimated and unappreciated by many people today.  While they may not provide me with copies I can keep or with ARCs, they supply me with the majority of my reading choices and allow a much broader range of tastes and selection than I could ever achieve on my own dime or even with the delights to be found at conferences and book fairs.

Third, which is much less easy to articulate, but rather more personal, is my realization that sometimes I feel entitled to things.  Through no particular merit of my own, I already receive a very small number of ARCs and review copies from publishers and authors who are generous enough to offer them.  Why, then, should I feel like I am being cheated in some way, when I do not get stacks of ARCs? 

Overcoming Book Envy is not an easy process, trust me.  I have found that a healthy dose of appreciating what I do have can lead to real contentment.  Now, when I see those lingering ALA posts, and hopefully when BEA posts start trickling in, I will be able to smile and feel genuinely happy for those fortunate enough to attend.  It is a process, but I will continue to work on it!  (It does not, however, prevent me from entering as many contests for those desirable ARCs as possible :)

Do you suffer from Book Envy?  How do you overcome it?
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  1. Great post! In answer to you your questions: yes, yes and YES!! I still don't get how some people get those coveted ARCs, I'm totally not in the loop. As for going to conferences, my excuse is being a mom of an extremely busy family. If BEA continues to be the last week of May every year, I'll never get to go until all my kids are out of school as that's the last week of school, and no one wants to miss that. The blogger convention this year? Right on my daughter's graduation day! So, I have a feeling the book envy you describe will continue for me for a long while to come.

  2. Oh, Book Envy. Maybe I suffer from conference envy? Because I'm not sure I really covet the stuff they pick up -- I figure I'll get to it eventually -- but I want to *be* there, in the middle of everything, and feel like I'm a part of it all. Sigh. Not going to happen (since I don't even have a job right now, and Hubby's doesn't cover extras). I do feel lucky that I got to go to KidLitCon last fall, and I'd like to go again, but I've got my 20th HS reunion this fall, too, and I'm going to have to choose. If we can even find the funds to cover one of them... Sigh.

    I think the best thing to do is keep telling yourself "someday" and know you're not alone. :-D

  3. Yes! I totally have that feeling too! Whenever I see all these bloggers who only read ARCs I get that feeling but then I tell myself, well I couldn't read what I want when I want then. I there's no why I can afford to go to BEA as long as it's mid-week on the East Coast when I've got a job on the West Coast. You aren't alone!

  4. Oh my gosh, I SOOO know what you're talking about. I don't know anything about the ALA, but BEA - I SOO want to go. If only it was in Phoenix or at least SLC. Or if it wasn't so dang expensive to fly to NYC ... Ah well, at least I know I'm not the only book blogger who can't go :)

    As for ARC's, I can't complain about that. I get tons. Still, no matter who many books I have on my shelves, I always feel book envy when I go to a bookstore. I can't help it, I want them all! Is that so wrong??

  5. I was a little bitter about not being sent a particular ARC that the publisher SHOULD have sent me and SHOULDN'T have sent to others--at least, not to others instead of me. I was sort of astonished at how much this irritated me... okay, it still irritates me. But what can you do?

    I had the good fortune of getting to visit the exhibit floor at ALA last summer, and I picked up a lot of great ARCs. I got more at kidlitcon. Then I was grumpy about not being able to go to Midwinter, a. because a lot of my friends across the country went and I wanted to have dinner with them and b. because of the ARCs.

    Then I looked at my stack, realistically, and reminded myself that I never made it to quite a lot of those ARCs I got last year. It would have been the same at Midwinter. And it's amazing how an ARC I was anxious to get loses its value when I haven't gotten around to it by the time the actual publication date comes around...

    That's the thing we need to remember! Eventually, EVERYONE gets to read everything. It's okay if we don't get to read everything a couple of months before everyone else.

  6. I love this post. I definitely get book envy. I actually feel quite guilty now, because the book review I posted today was actually from an ARC (but not one that I got at a conference, one that was given out through a SLJ webcast). I think part of my frustration also comes from being in Canada, where you just kind of come to accept that you're never going to get all the cool, buzzy things that are available to the south.

  7. I don't think I suffer from book envy so much as conference envy. I really wanted to go to BEA this year. I had my hotel, air fare, etc but then I became pregnant and my doctor said it was too late for me to fly so I had to cancel.

    Yes, the ARCs would have been great but for me I was more excited about meeting all of the wonderful book bloggers, publicists, etc that I've interacted online with in person. So I am green with envy of those who are going to get to go and hang out together in person. Not sure how to get over it. Sigh.

  8. I have cured myself of book envy by having Too Many Books (collected over many years of haunting bookstores, second hand stores etc) and the house is full to overflowing. Books cascade off shelves and are stacked on the floor. And if I love a book I can't give it away; even if I only like it I can't give it away ... so now I use the library/ borrow from friends (workmates, enemies, passing strangers in the street ... anyone really)and try only to buy when I love a books so much I have to have it permanently in my life.

    (Ok, now ask me how that's working--laughs wildly...)

  9. Suey, that is a great excuse. Too bad it will probably be in May every year. So glad to know I'm not the only one "out of the loop"

    Melissa, it is true that I can definitely hope for "someday." I admit it isn't only the ARCs that make me sad not to go. I really wish I could network more with librarians!

    Amused, I think I heard BEA is going to be in LA next year - hopefully you will get to go (oh and me too)!

    Susan, isn't it nice to just know there are other people who feel the same way? I think that also helps me get over it! :)

    Wendy, excellent thoughts! It really does help to keep in perspective just how short a shelf-life those ARCs really have. I WILL get to read them eventually!

    Caroline, you should definitely not feel guilty! I get ARCs too and still feel the envy! I can't imagine how much more frustrating it is to live in a place where you don't even get as many opportunities!

    Debbie, oh how frustrating! That is almost worse than knowing from the beginning you can't go! But, at least you will have a baby to look forward to :)

    Andie, you are brilliant! I really do have too many books to read already (though probably not as many as you do) so I ought to be able to find contentment in all those lovely unread books!

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts! They helped me feel better and hopefully helped some of you too!

  10. I suffer from both Book Envy and Unread Book Guilt. I have a huge stack of books that I really mean to read, and yet I can't help myself from picking up more all the time!

  11. NotNessie, I forgot about the unread book guilt! I definitely have that as well.

  12. Oh, my gosh! I know exactly what you mean; I felt the same after BEA .. I was like, "New York is NOT that far away! Why didn't I go?"...but then I looked at my pocketbook and realized .. next year .. I hope!

    Julie @ Knitting and Sundries

  13. I found this post in the comments section of My friend Amy's jealousy post. I have a jealousy post of my own on my blog today, and it's refreshing to know that I am not the only one who occasionally feels this way.

    I also love your honesty regarding ARCs. When I read that part of your post wanted to shout a loud "Amen." I had the same feelings last year too.


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