Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Collectors vs. librarians

I've just finished a book about book collecting, A Pound of Paper by John Baxter. It's a good read, especially for bibliophiles, but I found that I simply couldn't identify with the ethos of the book collector. Now, people who know me will think it strange, given that I've filled up every single shelf in the house with books (double-shelved, moreover, in many cases - something that I hate but can't help) and that every place I go, first things I look for are the bookshops. Plus, my university mounted book collection competitions in the last two years I was there and I was a finalist in the first and took first place in the second. Everything adds up to me being a collector, right?

But the difference between a collector's view of books and my view of books is how we view the books themselves. Collectors think of books as objects, while I think of books as - well, things to be read. When I read things like:

"...every time one opened a first edition, its value dropped $5."

"Collectors abominate lending libraries. They are graveyards of good books. Everything a librarian does to prepare a book for lending disqualifies it as a collectable."

It just doesn't make sense to me. What's important to me are the words within the books. I couldn't care less if the corners were frayed and the endpaper missing (it doesn't have words on it after all) so long as the pages that matter, the ones with the text, are all there. I think the saddest fate for a book is to end up like those glorified first editions, never opened, never read, never used for their intended purpose, just put up on a pedestal and worshipped. Come to think of it, it's a bit like the toys from Toy Story 2.

P.S. I'd forgotten where the quotes were in the book; I only found them by searching within the book at Amazon. Great resource - wish it could do a little more semantic mapping, for when one can only remember the gist and not the words.


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