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When It’s Okay To Have Multiple Copies Of Books

A photo of two copies of Elizabeth Chadwick's Shadows And Strongholds

I’ve always felt, instinctively, that owning more than one copy of a book is in some way wrong. I suppose that it’s because of the years spent with a mother who always talks of clutter, and because of the general question that is asked in our era, “do I really need this?” Sure enough, duplicate copies gained as presents have always been passed on and beautiful hardbacks have been left in the store because I already possessed the ugly paperback.

My feelings have had to be reassessed. I’ve found it necessary to purchase another copy of Shadows And Strongholds and, most damning to my aversion, the very same edition. The edition issue is simple – I like the cover. One of my reasons is understandable – I want to be able to read the book a lot without worries that it’ll fall apart and I’ll lose it forever (I’m not a fan of the new cover). I want to have another because it’s an important book to me; it was the catalyst in some self-study I’m undertaking, though I do love the story also.

However the most pressing reason is that my first copy arrived with its spine badly broken. Yes, the spine was ruined but it’s unlikely the book would remain in perfect condition after being read. Still.

It occurred to me that besides my very good and very petty reasoning there are actually some great reasons for wanting multiple copies of a book.

  • If a book is going to be ruined: flicking through it for study; taking it on a potentially ruinous holiday; lending it to others who aren’t careful with their books.
  • When you read it so much it falls apart: I once had a friend who was on her 7th of her favourite book because she read it all the time.
  • You have an ARC of it: sometimes the ARC will be understandably littered with errors, or you might just love the book so much you want to support the author and buy the finished version.
  • You have the ebook: you can pretend the print copy is your first because no one will be able to see the ebook unless you show them.
  • Classics with several gorgeous editions/your favourite book in multiple editions.

I’m sure that those of you who don’t share my complex are no strangers to these ideas but to me they are somewhat of a revelation. I can’t say I’ll be doing it often, my wallet isn’t bottomless and already I need another bookshelf, but it’s no longer a taboo. My only question now is how do I store these two copies?

Do you have multiple copies of a certain book(s)?

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Maria @ A bookworm’s life

February 13, 2013, 7:55 am

I don’t mind my books looking worn or their spines being broken. It actually makes me happy to look at my well-loved, much-read copies of my favourites.
So the only reason I would buy a copy of a book I already have is if it’s a beautiful edition and the book is a significant one for me. Basically what I did recently for The Wind in the WIllows. Otherwise, I’m happy with tattered paperbacks.

Laurie C

February 13, 2013, 11:21 am

I’m all for breaking down taboos when it comes to books! I’m not a great book buyer, so when I do buy, it’s usually something I don’t already have. I’m going to have to check out what you’ve written about this book that makes you want to read it so many times!


February 13, 2013, 12:52 pm

I can’t say I’ve really thought about this before! When I find myself with multiple copies of a book, usually because I have been bought them as gifts, I just pass them on to others. My thinking has changed recently though because of my kindle. I do quite a lot of books in book and ebook format. Mainly because there are a few books which are nice to have where ever you are which the kindle offers. But as practically as the kindle is nothing can beat the experience of a real book for me.


February 13, 2013, 1:23 pm

I also have multiple copies of some books. I can’t explain it! Except I always justify it by thinking: well, if my husband and I ever divorce, we can each keep a copy! LOL


February 13, 2013, 4:26 pm

Interesting question :)
I don’t have multiple copies of one book BUT I’m planning to buy a new wonderful copie of The princess bride that has been released this month in Spain. Why? because it is a better copie (mine is a pocket edition), because the new cover is more beautiful and because it is a book I want to read again, and again ;)
So well, I’m thinking about buying it in English too, so this is crazy, yes!
As booklovers, we have a problem!

Jackie (Farm Lane Books)

February 13, 2013, 7:00 pm

The only time I have multiple copies of books is when I’ve forgotten that I already own a copy and buy a second! I don’t mind if my books are well worn or damaged, in fact I don’t like having books that are too nice – I then fear reading them because I don’t want to damage them. I’d rather have a cheap copy I can drop in the bath than a beautiful first edition that I’d worry about.


February 13, 2013, 9:03 pm

I don’t tend to buy multiple copies of books because I have enough trouble finding shelf space for the books I already have! I do sometimes feel tempted though, for the reasons you mentioned in your post, and I also worry that if a book I love goes out of print I might have problems finding another copy.


February 14, 2013, 12:32 am

I have been known to acquire the same book in multiple editions, but usually it’s because I’m trying and trying to attain the perfect copy. I first had a movie tie-in edition of I Capture the Castle, and then I got a mass market paperback with the green-patterned cover, and now I have a trade paperback with the green-patterned cover and it is nearly nearly nearly perfect but a smidge water-damaged because I got caught in the rain the day I bought it. So once I have a non-water-damaged, green-patterned-covered trade paperback of it, that will be perfect. (Perfect until I find a hardback.)

All of which to say, I have bought replacement copies of books I love, but they are replacements. The only books I properly own two copies of are a few of the Harry Potter books (one copy acquired in London, one in America to match the rest of my set) and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Though I have tried repeatedly to get rid of my big hardback of JS & MN, I always chicken out when it comes to the clinch. It really is nonsense, my three-volume paperback set is much more manageable.


February 14, 2013, 1:56 am

What an interesting question! I loved reading everyone’s responses. I own multiple copies of all the Jane Austen books and of Jane Eyre. The reason? I just think they are so pretty and wonderful that I want to own every version. I also have a set of Penguin clothbounds that I only have for decorating purposes – they are too pretty to read! So, I have paperback copies of those titles that I don’t have to worry about getting dirty.


February 15, 2013, 10:08 am

On the whole if anyone ever asks about the book they are only interested in whether I’ve read it and enjoyed it not that they actually want to see it. I’ve been lucky though majoritively the gifted books have been better copies than I already owned so I usually keep them in place of the first copy I had :-)


February 17, 2013, 10:30 am

Maria: That’s a good point, they look well-loved. I was thinking of your Wind In The Willows when I wrote that statement :)

Laurie: You should write a post on that first sentence, so many ideas in just one statement! That makes a lot of sense, I suppose if you don’t buy many you’re less likely to have two copies by default, and you probably double check more, too. The book itself is pretty average, it struck a certain chord – I plan to write about it further because I realise my having two copies of it looks like a massive book recommendation.

Jessica: As someone who passes them on – what do you do when people ask about the book, do you show them your original copy? A few times I’ve worried they might realise and be upset that I didn’t just say I already had it. I think ereaders have made having multiple copies almost a non-issue if not desirable. I recently did the similar, got the print copies of some books I’d received as ebook ARCs.

Rhapsody: That’s my justification behind a couple of cd purchases. I don’t mind sharing some (and indeed it’s more a planning for future) but in this era (I sound so old…) you do want to have your own copy.

Isi: Now I feel very silly because your reason is brilliant – having copies in different languages. I didn’t think of that. It’s a great idea, you can explore all the different ideas that different cultures have about words, and check the other copy if you don’t understand the one you’re reading. I can totally understand you wanting a copy other than the pocket edition, I’ve a couple of books by a famous author than are tiny and I think how much better they would look if I had the regular versions.

Jackie: I’ve done that with differing titles, which is a sort of forgetting, it’s annoying when you put it on your bookshelf and that space is already full. If there was ever a monitory reason for reading all your TBR it’s surely that. I have to be honest and say that the books looking too nice really bugs me – as in I fear damaging them and then, because you inevitably do whether dog-earring, bent spine etc, it just makes you feel bad. A copy you don’t mind dropping in the bath is a good idea.

Helen: Very good reasoning. My Shadows And Strongholds is currently laying on the rest of my collection. Out of print, that’s a really good reason. Hopefully now that won’t happen with digital, but you still have to consider it happening with print.

Jenny: I know that wish, you want a beautiful copy with the “right” cover and binding. Having a couple of HPs from different places sounds reasonable, it counts as a memory, too. Yes to good intentions but not being able to act on them, it’s always difficult to get rid of books, and a big hardback (I’m guessing you mean coffee-table book size) would be hard to let go of.

Anbolyn: You’ve made me remember that I also have second copies of a couple of Austens (I prefer the Vintage versions to read, but liked the idea of footnotes and the beautiful covers of Oxford World Classics). Even the simple classics look well thought out. Those Penguins are gorgeous! Very good reasoning.

Jessica: That is lucky!

Alex in Leeds

February 25, 2013, 12:34 am

I have a rule that I buy certain editions of books I love if I see them so I have a lovely orange and white vintage Penguin copy of Jane Eyre just because it’s lovely to see a Bronte in that livery. I own different translations of some works too like Les Miserables or The Aeneid so I can compare them or because I like different aspects of them. They totally count as one ‘book’ though when I count my collection. ;)



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