I see a lot of posts on tumblr that imply borrowing a book from a library is less supportive of the author than buying it outright and I would like to offer a few unsolicited thoughts as to why that’s not true:
Every book in a public library has to earn its spot on the shelf. If no one checks it out, then it will be weeded from the collection to make way for a book that will circulate. So, if you check out a book, you’ve just given it a much a better chance at being there for someone else to discover!
A recently returned book is more likely to be propped up as a display in the tiny nooks around the library. Every shelver loves an empty display space because it means they can quickly get rid of several books. A book on display is more likely to catch someone’s eye and on and on!
You might not be able to tell this just by looking at the shelves, but when a book first comes out from an author, the library often buys several copies and based on how many people have reserved the title and how heavily it circulates, they might buy even more copies! Also, when purchasing a new title from an established author, many librarians will look at the circ stats of the author’s other books and will use that as a guide for how many copies to buy of the new book. In case you didn’t know, libraries buy a lot of books - we make up a huge portion of the book sales market.
Many people use the library as a way to discover new authors. It’s a risk-free investment and helps them experiment with a lot of different titles that they wouldn’t be able to if they had to buy all of them. And if they really love an author, they might become a life-long fan who will buy their books for years to come, all because of kismet at the library.
If you check out the book at the library, your librarian can make a better case for inviting the author to come to the library for an event for which they can get paid! This is especially true for lesser-known authors.
In conclusion, borrowing a book from the library is a wonderful thing to do. It helps make sure other people have access to that book in the future, creating an ever-wider audience for the author.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy books, I’m just saying, borrowing books from the library has just as many positive effects and you don’t ever have to feel bad that you’re somehow not supporting an author by borrowing their book instead of buying it. :)