It may have come to your attention that I have some Opinions™ on this blog. I love to rage about what I’m reading, and about how books reflect society Economic inequality, feminism, supporting diverse voices – you name a bookish issue, and I’m probably getting angry about it RIGHT NOW.
So to take a break from dragging other people’s work, I thought it was time to take a long hard look at myself. I wanted to see if I’m actually applying the ethics I care about to the ways I aquire and consume fiction. The answer?
🐯 Do I read in an environmentally sustainable way?
*side eyes mounting TBR pile * No. No I do not.
I love paper copies more than ebooks. But I also buy more than I’m ever able to read, and that’s getting a bit ridiculous. The consumerism needs to be curbed, because what’s the point of murdering a tree if it only ends up sitting unread, unloved and forgotten on the back of somebody’s shelf?
🐯 Do I buy my books ethically?
I used to get all my books from libraries. Now I have a full time job, I can afford to support authours by buying their work.
I want to support creatives by buying full price copies of their work. Supermarkets and discount stores sell off hugely discounted bulk orders which mean writers barely scrape back any pennies, so I don’t want by there. I want to avoid huge monopolies which rake in profits, crush commercial competition, don’t pay tax and fuck over our economy and workers. By which I mean a certain company which rhymes with Schmamazon. So, I want to support small and independent businesses, or at least high street book chains Waterstones.
So do I buy my books full price? Nah, I mostly buy them second hand.
Oh, but that’s wonderful if I’m supporting independent second hand book stores, right? Uh… nah.
I’m getting them from discount shops, eBay and Amazon.
*shakes fist at myself* MADDDDYYYYYY
PS NUANCE ALERT.
I know buying off Amazon is not just indiscriminately terrible. Loads of indie authours have business models which rely on Amazon ebooks. Supporting indie authours is hecking cool! But I prefer paper copies over ebooks anyway (I know…I’m sorry…) and I’d like to support indie publishing in ways which don’t also prop up the late stage capitalist hellscape controlled by Lex Luthor Jeff Bezos.
🐯 Do I borrow my books ethically?
Luckily, having no money isn’t an issue for reading, because the universe has this mystical thing called ‘a library’. It’s wonderful to support one of these amazing, magical and brilliant community learning hubs. If you want a specific book they don’t have, no problem! You can make a request for them to buy a copy, and in so doing help support the authour spread their work to more readers.
So, do I use the library? No. After moving house last November, I’m not even signed up to a library anymore! What??
Instead, I’ve done something truly shitty — I’ve read pirated copies of two novels online, both a couple years ago. This was a dark day for my soul, and I genuinely regret it. I freerode on someone else’s act of stealing, and those authours got nothing for my consumption of their copyrighted creation, their blood sweat and tears, their actual source of mother trucking income.
Wow, I suck. Maddy, go to the fucking library.
🐯 Do I choose my books ethically? (aka Feminism, Diversity & Own Voices)
Now that we’ve established that I’m a hypocritical edgelord when it comes to getting my hands on books, let’s please move on before I cry.
I’m an intersectional feminist (in case you haven’t noticed) and sexism in books and the publishing industry really boils my piss. We live in a colourful, interesting world, and I think the things we write and read should reflect that.
So presumably, I’m putting money where my mouth is in terms of the books I choose to read. I’m supporting female authours from a diverse range of backgrounds, especially marginalised ones – writers of colour, authours from working class backgrounds, LGBT writers…right?
🐯 Time for some Beautiful STATS
Of the 40 books and short stories I’ve read since January 2018…
- 65% (24) are by female authours.
This I think is a very fair and reasonable ratio. I want to angle my reading towards female authours, because I find they tend to write much more interesting, diverse and three dimensional characters, and include less glaring misogyny. This is a big generalisation because obviously #NotAllMenWriters, but it’s also a real pattern. Clean up your act, lads.
Of the 33 books I read which are fiction…
- 33% (11) contained explicitly queer/LGBT protagonists.
- 6% (2) had an LGBT relationship between the protagonists.
Only two? What the fuck. I feel like I read loads of gay stuff but maybe it’s all just fanfiction??
- 18% (6) had a POC protagonist.
- 10% (3) were by non-white authours.
Three. THREE. Well…fuck.
This one really shames me. How the hell can I talk about racism in books… If I’m never actually supporting racially diverse authours, by orienting my reading towards them in the same way I do towards female authours???? Answer, I CAN’T!
I’m not surprised, because internalised and structural racism is A Thing. But I’m nonetheless disappointed in myself, and I know I can and should and will do better.
🐯 New Rules for being a less hypocritical reader! (yay)
Right, that’s it. I’m making some New Rules to clean up my act, and put my values back into my reading. Just like Dua Lipa I’m going to read these New Rules out loud every night while marching around a pool with my girl squad and a plastic flamingo.
- I’m going to sign up to the library this week.
- I am officially boycotting Amazon unless I can’t get a book anywhere else.
- I can only buy one new book for every three books I read from my existing TBR.
- For every two new books, one has to be from a high street or indie shop.
- For every two new books, one has to be by an authour of colour. Hey – I’ve put this into action already, and gone out to pick up Dread Nation by Justina Ireland!
- Read ALL the gay shit. Mu hah ahahhaaa!
Chat with me!
What (if any) personal values do you want to incorporate into your bookish life? Do you intentionally expand your reading towards different kinds of writers, or do you just follow where the whims take you? This is also a new type of post for this blog, so please let me know what you thought below!