Have You Heard Bibliophile, Bibliobibuli And Tsundoku?

by Bilal Ahmad Dar

 ‘The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones’
J Joubert

Book buying like other things is a passion. Academicians and students love to buy books. They have a natural propensity towards book buying. Whether we read them or not but we do buy books. In English, we have many words that define book lovers and those who are habitual of reading a lot of books. A bibliophile is a person who loves books. Similarly, bibliobibuli is a person who reads a lot of books. This term was coined in 1957 by HL Mencken.

An early last century photograph showing the Kashmiri Pandit book writers in Srinagar. Photo: Internet

I am a book lover. My love for books started when I, for the first time, entered the well-equipped and enlightening Research Division of Maulana Azad Library in Aligarh Muslim University in 2014 to start my research work. It was love prima facie.

As I saw the stacks and stacks of books related to every discipline, I was impressed beyond measure. That very experience enhanced my interest in books. I buy a lot of books both from book stores and kiosks. I not only love and read books but also enjoy the smell of books that the pages of a book exude. In a word, I have a bibliosmia. Whenever I feel sad or depressed because of worldly cares, I look at the books in my personal library in order to drive away from the care and sadness from my mind and heart. Books are the best friends. We should befriend them, love them and laud them. A human friend can cheat and desert us but a friend in the form of a book will never do so. Friendship with books is everlastingly lucrative and comforting. Books teach us that which nobody can.

We have people who have the habit of buying books every day. They pile them up and leave them on the shelf without reading. This habit of buying books and leaving them without reading is known as ‘Tsundoku’. This term has a Japanese origin. With the smartphone influx and digital revolution book reading culture has diminished.

When there were no smartphones people used to read books with a lot of interest and focus. Books were the sole source of entertainment for students. But at present books have been replaced by virtual games and online reading. The result of this has led to the fallibility of student memories. Whatever we read online has no long-lasting impression on our memories. Nothing can replace physical or hardcopy of a book. Holding a book in our hands and reading directly from it leaves an indelible impression on our memories.

Book reading culture has disappeared everywhere because of our smartphone addiction. We consume a lot of our precious time in social media applications and virtual games. These virtual games and social media apps are going to give a final death knell to our book reading habit and volition.

In this era of the digital revolution, book reading culture is found in a very residual form. Old age people are still used to reading books. They buy books not for shelving them but in order to read them.

Aalama Iqbal Library, Kashmir University
University of Kashmir

I have a firsthand experience of it. Being a Doctoral student at AMU, I have seen it through my own eyes in the spacious Research Division (RD) of Maulana Azad Library of Aligarh Muslim University. Some senior citizens, age-old professors, having the membership of the said library, are always seen engrossed in reading books. In comparison to them, the young, energetic and enthusiastic scholars bank more on the online reading of books. Scholars buy books, but only a small percentage among them read them later on. These days online reading is in fashion. Online reading has its own benefits and profits. But in comparison to this, reading a book in hardcopy is more lucrative and is more effectual.

We should buy books but after buying them we should not shelf them and leave them in the isolated corners of our personal libraries. We should extract and squeeze knowledge out of the books by reading them. Books are the storehouses of knowledge. We can smarten ourselves with the knowledge that books contain. We should not only read subject-specific books but we should also lay our hands-on trade books (books intended for general readership). We should make ourselves as catholic readers. We should shun the habit of being a conservative reader.

Bilal Ahmad Dar

Buying books and piling them up without reading can lead to our intellectual inertia. Books contain knowledge; whosoever reads them attains that knowledge. In this regard, James Russel Lowell writes, “Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind”. We should try to attain this quickening pollen by reading a book we buy thoroughly and with interest.

We should shun this Tsundoku habit. Buy books. Do not shelf them without reading. We should read books with renewed interest and enthusiasm. Our frequency of reading books should be great. In a word, we should be bibliobibuli. We should not be lethargic readers. We should prove ourselves as enthusiastic book buyers and voracious book readers.


Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them.
Samuel Butler

(Bilal Ahmad Dar is a Research Scholar in the Department of English, AMU. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)


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