July 24, 2008 at 9:27 pm | Posted in Book Blather | Leave a comment

Some things you find out the hard way.  Like just how late in the day you can drink a pot of green tea before it will keep you up half the night.  Or just how tightly you need to hang on to your keys before they slip out of your hand and fall down the elevator shaft.  Or, like my friend D., just how far you can pull the dorm hallway fire alarm before it actually does go off.  In my case, I’ve found out about some numerical limits that many people probably wouldn’t ever venture to exceed.


One of these came up yesterday.  I was leaving the library, and as I passed the circulation desk I heard a man ask the librarian how many books he could check out at one time.  “Thirty,” I thought to myself, anticipating the answer.  I’d found that one out the hard way a few years ago, when I tried to check out a stack of books and had to (gasp!) put some back.  I also know that you can only have thirty books on hold at any given time, only three in the sharing system with our neighboring three counties, and another three on Inter-Library Loan.  Let’s just say that I’ve got some catch-up reading to do this weekend before I run out of borrowing privileges…


I ran into a similar limit today.  I was checking my account at BookSwim, since I shipped back some books earlier this week and wanted to see whether they had been received yet.  I’m intensely curious about what will come in my next order, since so far the top few books in my queue seem to be in more demand than I would have anticipated.  I also wanted to add a couple of new titles.  Imagine my surprise when an error message popped up!  It said if I wanted to add more titles I had to either wait, or delete something from my list, because you can only have 50 at a time.  But!  But!  But why?  I actually had more than 50 books on my original list, and at one time, there they all were.  I took a closer look, and it turns out that the last eight books on my list have been summarily cut off.  Cut off?  What is this, a bar?  “Sorry, missy, we have it on good authority that you currently have no fewer than 77 other books on hold through various sources.”  I’ve been found out by the firefighters from Fahrenheit 451!  Next they’ll come in and find out that I can’t fit all my own books in one shelf, and it’ll be all over.


In the case of BookSwim, it does seem strange to limit the rental queue.  You’d think since the service is month to month that they would want to encourage addic enthusiastic user subscribers like me to have as long a list as possible.  That also gives them a broader list from which to choose, so in my case I could have the same half-dozen books at the top of my queue until the end of time.


The obvious answer here would be just to go out and buy all the books I want.  Nobody in this fine country of ours would ever stop someone from passing currency over a countertop.  The trouble with this is storage.  It’s like Steven Wright says, “You can’t have it all.  Where would you put it?”


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