Reading is one of the primary joys of life- I cannot imagine the house without thousands of books in it, and it has always been like that. It surprises some people, therfore, when I say that most books are crap.
You may have seen this story in the news over the last several days-
Mo. Man Burns Books As Act of Protest
Associated Press, May 28, 2007
KANSAS CITY- Tom Wayne amassed thousands of books in a warehouse during the 10 years he has run his used book store, Prospero's Books. His collection ranges from best sellers like Tom Clancy's ``The Hunt for Red October'' and Tom Wolfe's ``Bonfire of the Vanities,'' to obscure titles like a bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in 1910, didn't sell. But wanting to thin out his collection, he found he couldn't even give away books to libraries or thrift shops, which said they were full.
So on Sunday, Wayne began burning his books protest what he sees as society's diminishing support for the printed word.
``This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today,'' Wayne told spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books.
The fire blazed for about 50 minutes before the Kansas City Fire Department put it out because Wayne didn't have a permit to burn them. Wayne said next time he will get a permit. He said he envisions monthly bonfires until his supply - estimated at 20,000 books - is exhausted.
``After slogging through the tens of thousands of books we've slogged through and to accumulate that many and to have people turn you away when you take them somewhere, it's just kind of a knee-jerk reaction,'' he said. ``And it's a good excuse for fun.''
I assume that the basic reaction in much of the rest of the world is "How awful to burn books!". In the bookselling community the reaction has been more along the lines of "Wow, what a cool idea!" and "Why didn't I think of that as a way to get publicity?"
The basic fact of bookselling life is that too many books out there are utter trash when they are published, and are completely unsaleable forever afterwards. If you are not very careful you eventually end up with thousands of such "duds" lying around, and they can be very hard to get rid of, as most landfills will no longer take them. When we moved we succeeded in recyling about 60 boxes of books, but we had to tear the covers off all the hardcovers, because the cloth isn't recyclable, just the paper.
My only problem with burning them is that it contributes to air pollution, and one never knows what sorts of toxic chemicals may be in the inks. Color inks certainly give off toxic fumes. We bought a wood chipper this spring- I wonder if they'd gunk it up?
For those who would argue that books are scared things, and are aghast at all this talk of destroying books I can only reply that I believe that the freedom to write, publish, sell and read any book you want is sacred... but many books are just crap.