Who Buys Books?


Bookshop, Naestved, Denmark, c. 1908

by Arnold Bennett

I know that people buy motor-cars, for the newspapers are full of the dust of them. I know that they buy seats in railway carriages and theatres, and meals at restaurants, and cravats of the new colour, and shares in companies, for they talk about their purchases, and rise into ecstasies of praise or blame concerning them. I want to learn about the people who buy new books—modest band who never praise nor blame, nor get excited over their acquisitions, preferring to keep silence, preferring to do good in secret! Let an enterprising inventor put a new tyre on the market, and every single purchaser will write to the Press and state that he has bought it and exactly what he thinks about it. Yet, though the purchasers of a fairly popular new book must be as numerous as the purchasers of a new tyre, not one of them ever “lets on” that he has purchased. I want some book-buyers to come forward and at any rate state that they have bought a book, with some account of the adventure. I should then feel partly reassured. I should know by demonstration that a book-buyer did exist; whereas at present all I can do is to assume the existence of a book-buyer whom I have never seen, and whom nobody has ever seen. It seems to me that if a few book-buyers would kindly come forward and confess—with proper statistics—the result would be a few columns quite pleasant to read in the quietude of September.

About the Author

Arnold Bennett was an English writer.

Publication Rights

The text above is part of The Book-Buyer, an essay Bennett published under the pseudonym of Jacob Tonson in the New Age on 22 August 1908. It is now in the public domain.

Image Rights

From the Library of Congress. No known restrictions.

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