Saved from Certain Doom

May 19, 2009 at 9:00 am | Posted in Book Blather | 2 Comments

There are some titles on my TBR list that have been there for some time.  One of them was The Beach, by Alex Garland.  I read a review and decided it would be a good road trip read for me and my man Rocket Scientist this weekend.  The library catalog showed that it was on the shelf, so I merrily went in to grab it.

No book.  That’s happened before.  Some clumsy oik knocks it behind another book, or it gets shuffled between books on a different shelf.  I thought perhaps it had been shelved with the mysteries or sci fi.  No dice.

The reference desk librarian offered to drag herself out of her chair and check the shelf for it.  Naturally she didn’t see it either.  (I can’t help but have ruffled feelings when this happens, as though they don’t trust that I know my alphabet).  She had an idea where this missing book might be.

Lo and behold, it was on the goodbye cart!  This book that I wanted to read had been “pulled for review” and was destined to be tossed in the dumpster with the other unloved books.

This makes a certain sense, as the volume I have was a movie tie-in (urgh) and only five people had checked it out in two years.  There are other copies in our system, so it would still be available.  There’s just no particular reason to let a paperback with Leonardo DiCaprio’s face on the cover hog valuable shelf space.

On the one hand, I have an intrinsic horror of throwing away “perfectly good” books.  On the other hand, I also have a horror of clutter, and I’m glad my library isn’t full of obsolete science books and 1970’s era romance novels.  Now I’ve checked out a book that was slated for certain doom.  When I return it, will it then sit on the shelf for another year, unwanted and forgotten, taking up the space where The Able McLaughlins should go?

This is one argument in favor of e-books.  Let’s be frank and say that not every book is destined to be a classic.  How many millions of copies of… I want to name a book that isn’t a classic, but it seems that if the name immediately springs to mind, maybe it’s got some power behind it after all.  Anyway, all those millions of mass market paperbacks have to go somewhere.  Sometimes, it’s probably the recycle bin.


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  1. That’s a good point about eBooks. I’m not sure I’d really thought about it. It’s true, though, that many books aren’t deserving of eternal fame (makes you wonder who published them in the first place, no?). Throwing the books out seems harsh – perhaps, like with everything else, we should simply reduce the amount of books released per year.

    • That’s probably going to happen, anyway, if the publishing industry continues to suffer declining sales and costs continue to rise. It would tend to make the competition stiffer.

      There’s also the exciting prospect of emerging writers self-publishing their own e-books, meaning they can still get their words out there even if publishing houses are too conservative to give them a chance. Deserved? Undeserved? Who can say?

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