Monday, 10 June 2013

With light handling marks

One of my sales
We hear a lot about how evil Amazon is, the way they ruin things for friendly local bookshops. And there is a degree of truth in this. But it isn't an entirely balanced view. After all, with Amazon I can be shopping in the afternoon and have a book delivered next day, far easier than ordering a book from my local shop. But that isn't the advantage I want to discuss here.

I get sent a lot of books to review, and when I have finished with them I sell them most of them. I don't feel guilty about this - I'm mostly not paid for doing the reviews so a fiver or whatever I get for selling the book on is not exactly an unreasonable compensation. And I am always reminded of science fiction author Brian Aldiss's excellent memoir Bury My Heart at W. H. Smith's in which he remembers working in a bookshop in Oxford which had frequent visits from poet laureate John Betjeman, turning up with boxes full of books he had been sent to review and wanted to sell.

I am a very careful reader, and the books usually still look new after I've finished them, so I tend to sell them 'Used like new - has been read with light handling marks.' And here's the point I wanted to make about bookshops. That is the condition of a book you buy as 'new' from a bookshop. If you are lucky. Because they have been taken off the shelves, manhandled, sneezed on and generally abused by the browsers. Where if I by a book new from Amazon it really is new, as pristine as when it left the publisher.

This might seems trivial, but it is not. Why, after all do I still buy paper books? I can read them just as well and usually cheaper on an iPad. But I quite often do buy paper books, for the pleasure of owning and handling them. And if I am going to do that, I much prefer them not to have been pawed by the general public.

One up for buying online, I feel.

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