The Addiction of Book Collecting
"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain."
- Louisa May AlcottI was browsing in Barnes & Noble Bookseller the other day. I already own 450 books and my husband would kill me (not literally) if I purchased another book. I try to justify my purchase by saying "But, it was on sale" - so I stuck strickly with the Bargain Books section. My favorite digs have all closed - Borders Outlets have all shut down leaving me with fewer choices for a quick fix for a cheap book buy.
In 1975,Barnes & Noble took a bold and audacious step by becoming the first bookseller in America to discount books by offering New York Times bestsellers at 40% off publisher's list prices. Barnes & Noble expanded on that idea by opening a 40,000-square-foot Sale Annex directly across from its flagship store.
The company began to expand in the New York/Boston markets by opening smaller discount bookstores. In addition, it acquired two local chains, BookMasters and Marboro Books, which were converted to Barnes & Noble discount stores. Initially, these stores were very successful and expanded to 50 locations. They were eventually phased out in
favor of the company's larger-format book superstores.So, I'm looking in Barnes & Noble and come across a gold mine of books under $6. My eyes become enlarged and my heart came alive with excitement of bargain books...and by African American authors.
Let me stop and describe to you the feeling a book lover (bibliophile) like myself feels about books and book collecting. We see books as physical objects of beauty and romance, we love the look and feel of our books. Even if some of us do not understand first edition collecting, we have a shelf of treasured books, or even a library full of them. We tend to take care of our books in the same way we care for other valuable objects we own, like paintings or fine china. We see our collections as extensions of our interests, perhaps as a record of our intellectual and artistic experiences. Something about having a book on the shelf gives pleasure; owning books enriches our lives. Since collectors value books as beautiful objects, the books' condition is important. A lovely copy is more appealing than one that has been used and abused. I can read a book from cover to cover without leaving any evidence of having done so. Collectors take care with their books. I use clear vinyl book covers to protect my collection. The underlying reason to collect books lies in the duality of the experience. Not only do collectors take pleasure from the intellectual content of their books, but they also enjoy the process of assembling their collections. Finding a beautiful copy of a treasured first edition is a rewarding experience. Owning one gives continuing delight. Many first edition books appreciate in value over time.
Book collecting does not have to be expensive. You can spend as little or as much as you are able and willing to spend on your collection. Some collectors purchase only new in-print books, others buy only at yard sales and library book sales, others visit their neighborhood used book shop. others order only from mail order catalogs, and many are now buying books on the world wide web, such as Amazon.com. Many collectors purchase their books from a wide variety of sources and limit their purchases to expenditures they can afford.
Why do I collect books? I collect them because they are beautiful, valuable, it's an expanding field that is likely to remain so, and most important of all, I collect them because I love them. Although we are in the minority as regards to the general population, there are still a great many of us. You might not think of yourselves as collectors, but you carry the virus. It's chronic and there is no cure. Book collecting, gives pleasure and adds dimension to our lives.
You can read more on "The Fundamentals of Book Collecting" by visiting www.firsts.com.
Back to my story...So as I make my final selections, because I had to leave some behind, I proceed to the cashier. She asked "Did you find everything okay?" I reply "Yes! and I was so excited when I saw your selection...I love books" I'm practically jumping up and down as I say this - like a child getting a new toy and can't wait to play with it. The cashiers then says "I see you got all bargain book purchases, did you look beyond the bargain book area to the back of the store where our Sales Annex is?" my smile slightly diminishes as she's pointing in the direction I just left. I say "No, what's that?" she explains "That's where we sell used books. You know where customers trade in or donate used books for resale, and some are brand new releases for as little as $12 dollars" I don't hear anything else she's saying...I practically run to the Sales Annex in the middle of the ladies sentence. But, I gather my manners and ask her to do me a favor and hold my bag with the 4 books I just purchased behind the counter while I explore this new gold mine. She obliged with an approving nod of her head and a unhesitating reach for my bag.
I look at every single book on the shelf with a methodical eye. I'm back there so long that when I return to the cashier, she doesn't recognize me as the lady to whom she is babysitting the bag full of books.
That evening, I gently confess my purchases to my husband when he ask me "How was your day? and what did you do?" He believes I need to join BA "Bookaholic Anonymous" if there is such a thing. I'll go to a few meetings, but it probably wouldn't do any good.
Gotta go, my husband just left for work and I'm on my way to a used book sale.