Most books are designed to be appealing. Not only do they have back covers that explain in the most suggestive way possible what can be found between their pages, but the spine, the cover image and often the title express the intention to capture attention quickly.
Bibliomania can be understood as one of the most extreme consequences of this, since the person experiencing this phenomenon is intensely attracted to books in physical format. However, it is much more than this.
What is Bibliomania?
Bibliomania is the tendency to acquire and accumulate books in a compulsive and uncontrolled way .
It is not considered a mental disorder and in fact does not appear in the DSM-5 diagnostic manuals, but it can be understood as a symptom related to accumulation disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Furthermore, should also not be confused with bibliophilia , which is simply the love of books in an abstract sense.
Thus, Bibliomania can be used to refer precisely to the way in which a mental disorder is expressed when the accumulation of books produces problems that harm the person’s quality of life, whether due to a serious lack of space at home, the constant appearance of new debts, lack of social life, problems with hygiene due to excessive dust, etc.
How do you recognize that there is a problem of accumulation?
The accumulation of books is not in itself a bad thing. As is almost always the case with symptoms of mental disorders, whether or not bibliomania is a problem depends on a question of degree : the intensity with which it is compulsively bought, the space left free to move around the house, the conditions of hygiene in the home, the way in which the accumulation of books has an impact on social life, etc.
Furthermore, one must also take into account the way in which all of the above is related to a person’s purchasing power; it is not the same to reserve 3 rooms to accumulate hundreds of books if one lives on a subsistence income as if one is from the upper class.
As bibliomania is not an agreed diagnostic category nor is it widely used in the clinical setting, from time to time this word is used to refer in an ironic or humorous tone to the tastes of some “intellectual sybarites” who accumulate large quantities of books that they are not going to be able to read, among other things, because of the desire to pretend.
This kind of benign bibliomania is also a way of offering a positive image of oneself. Having large walls full of book shelves can be admired both as a reliable form of decoration and as a way of showcasing the literary and intellectual curiosities and interests of those who own them.
On the other hand, maintaining an extensive and careful collection of books is a demonstration of one’s own criteria and refined tastes as long as one does not accumulate any type of literary works and maintains a filter.
Moreover, the display of very expensive or rare books, such as single editions, defective copies or incunabula is also a form of class differentiation , so that Bibliomania can be based on the will to legitimize a certain degree of authority over others.
Hoarding books uncontrollably
Although for a long time the image of the buyer has been that of a person who makes purely rational decisions taking into account the costs and benefits of acquiring something, this idea has long since entered into crisis.
Nowadays we know that after the purchase of a product, processes based entirely on emotions often influence, even if they are disguised as rationality. For example, something as simple as the colour of a box or packaging can make a certain product sell more or less.
In the case of bibliomania, the motivation behind the accumulation of books also escapes conventional logic . That is why this phenomenon is considered a symptom that can appear in certain disorders and that on many occasions escapes the person’s control: first the acquisition and storage of the book takes place and then the “excuses” created to justify to oneself what has been done appear.
As for the causes of bibliomania, depend on the type of mental disorder with which it is associated in each case , and even knowing this factor it is not entirely known what kind of mental mechanisms produce this symptom.
As far as non-pathological Bibliomania is concerned, being a very abstract concept, there can be an infinite number of reasons for it: from the belief that one will have time to read everything (in the case of people who are very curious about many subjects or who appreciate the habit of reading for leisure purposes) to the narcissistic interest in displaying intellectual assets, or simply a desire for decoration.