bibliomaniac

A guy with a scanner came around to my office one day last week and asked if I had any books I’d care to “recycle.” He sells to wholesalers who re-sell to retailers who re-sell to readers and students. The overlap in those last two categories is not what it could be.

All academics have stacks of unsolicited, unwanted textbooks, of course, pushed on us by publishers who must be anticipating with intense interest the impending roll-out of iPad. Are big, heavy textbooks about to go the way of the dinosaur? And what about the broad non-academic book-consuming public? Will this be the tipping point for people like me? Are my shelves about to become bric-a-brac holders, one more symbol of the void in our time? Is this the end of the book as we’ve known it?

Anyway, his scanner tallied an impressive total for my bottom shelf of big heavy textbooks. I was happy to do business with him.

Then, he aimed the device at what he called the “little guys,” mostly nonfiction trade paperbacks published in the last decade or so on various  subjects, not all explicitly philosophical in theme, some of which I’ve used in courses, some I’d forgotten I even had, and– honestly– will never pull out again. Did I want to sell? To my surprise, almost without exception, I did not.  Seems I’ve formed an emotional attachment to them, I would miss them even if I never give them quality time and attention ever again. Guess that marks me as a bibliomaniac.

But there was one of those titles, Spirituality and the Secular Quest, that I finally relented on. I haven’t even thought about it in the decade-plus since making its acquaintance, when it promised to shed light on the beliefs and practices of people who describe themselves as spiritual even though they acknowledge no bond of doctrine or community with any historical religion, covering topics like feminism, environmentalism, gay liberation, twelve-step programs, therapy, painting… some of the kind of stuff we’ve been discussing this semester in Atheism & Spirituality class.

This morning I miss it.

At least I can still peek at it through the snippet-bars of Google Books, but they’re not even offering a “limited” visit. And digitized books ain’t books, no-how.

So I have my answer as to the impact iPad likely will have on me personally: I’m still in the book-buying biz too.

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2 Responses to “bibliomaniac”

  1. Kristin Says:

    I’m desperate for an iPad like I’ve not been desperate for a tech gadget in years, possibly since the VCR (and frankly, I think the toaster is still too uncelebrated). I do have a Sony Reader on which I have one of my Intercultural Communications books; The Little Book and Spirituality for the Skeptic for this class; and a collection of other odds and ends, including supplementary PDFs and Word documents from other classes. I can highlight and dog-ear and write notes in the “pages,” and would be thrilled to be able to get all my textbooks on it (which I can’t yet). The reduction in bulk and ability to tote them everywhere and whittle away at them in waiting rooms and such would be nice, and e-ink is more comfortable on the eyes than I expected.
    That said, there’s nothing like the sound and feel of a turning page, the smell of a book that was printed about 75 years ago but well-kept, and the availability of storage for pictures and receipts and miscellaneous notes about the rest of my life. I think there’s room for all of it.
    Oh, and the last sentence of the first paragraph made me laugh out loud.

  2. osopher Says:

    Same here, though I’m torn between that and an upgrade to the iPod. I really think books will survive. As Alain de Botton tweeted this morning: “The book will be killed not directly by new technology but by the monkey mind it breeds. The issue is concentration, not royalties.” But he also tweeted: “Here: the path from thought to authorship, publication & reception reduced from four years to four minutes.” The question for authors: will your tweeting and facebooking make you a better writer? Will it postpone the next book?

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