Monday, December 1, 2008

Dirty Little Secrets

I have a love affair with used bookstores. It's something I've been very open about, the way an alcoholic may admit they like vodka a little. But these days, it feels like that dirty little secret I should hide under the rug. What with the publishing industry struggling and publishing house acquisitions halted, and the fact that I joined the facebook group, Buy A Book, Save the World...

Well, I shouldn't be buying second hand books, should I?

I haven't been in a used bookstore in many months, actually. But over the weekend my father-in-law took me to the one he works in. And truthfully, for the first time, it seemed like kind of a sad place. All these books, some hardly touched and others worn thin, hanging around on the shelves unwanted. I think this is what got me most. Someone didn't want them.

I wandered the aisles wondering: What books are people most likely to give up? Is it a sign of the worth of the book or the story or the writing that they ended up here? Would I want to end up here, someone else's hand-me-downs they'd outgrown and didn't foresee ever reading again?

I know others view books very differently. I hardly ever give up my books. I'm a rereader. Have been since I was eight and reread Katie Kittenheart fifty times before my mother bribed me with a Habitrail for my hamster to read something else. One never knows when they might be in need of revisiting an old friend in a book.

Many people, though, see books as expendable. You read them once and move on. There are thousands of books. You can't read them all, let alone hoard them all. Why not trade them in?

It felt sad at first, the flickering fluorescent lighting, the thread bare carpet, the rickety shelves with so many books already broken in. And then I found a book I'd been curious about but too cheap to buy. And then another. And then another. And pretty soon, I'd racked up fifteen dollars worth of 25 cent books and another three dollars worth of dollar books.

I'd feel guilt except for this: 100% of the proceeds from this store go to the library to buy more books.

And a few books have found permanent homes to someone who will love and cherish them. Maybe it's not so much a used book store as a book rescue store.

And hey- if I really like one of them, I might just buy it as a Christmas present for a friend.... New!


  1. That is kinda sad. I'm glad you were able to rescue some books - and yes, that is what it is - rescuing.

    I have books that I would not part with. In fact, I read a book - fell in love with it. I could not put it down while I was reading it. When I finished, it was so amazingly twined together, I decided I had to read it again. I panicked when someone "cleaned through the books" and gave a lot of them to the Resale Shop. I thought my wonderful book was gone - but no, it was tucked away on the bookshelf.

    I don't have room for a full library - but one day, I will. Totally built-in bookshelves where I'll fill it up with all the books I can.

  2. agreed, all of it!

    I wonder sometimes if mine will ever end up there.... gah!

    I love my big bookcase. A dream of mine was to have my own library and there it is. I love my books. But you know what? I have given some away. I have to, if I want more! Some I have read and just haven't loved enough, some I didn't like at all, and some I'm just indifferent. Why would I keep them?

    I like your attitude that if you really love a used book, you might buy one new as a gift for someone. It's really about getting the word out there, literally.

    Having said that, this year's going to be all about books and music for gifts.

    Oh wait... just like last year...

  3. Brit... I had to wait a long time for my library, but it was worth the wait! I love being able to find my books at a minute's notice.

    Heidi - I admit I've given a few away myself. And this year... music and books for me too!

  4. Heidi - I'm a rereader, too...and I would kill to have a used bookstore over here that sold English books. I envy your every step over there. :)

    I would think a used bookstore would be a good jumping off point. You know, you get it for nada, read it, like it and buy it new for people.

    I would give many books a new home tht way. :)