Pretty soon, we’re going to be using books for kindling.

7 09 2010

Today is a bittersweet day for me. Our library is trashing many of its journals (the ones that are accessible through our databases like J-Store). So on the one hand, many fine resources are about to be pulped. On the other hand, I just scored long runs of Technology and Culture and Agricultural History which actually fit in my new, larger office.

I’ve cited Nicholson Baker’s 2001 book Doublefold a few times before in this blog, and it seems appropriate again:

[T]here is no reason why one medium must mandatorily stab another in the back.

[Except, of course, you work at a state school with an underfunded library and not enough shelf space.] Since scanning was so primitive just nine years ago, his warning was in one sense overblown. Nevertheless, my new old journals demonstrate that he was still prophetic.

Coincidentally, Caleb Crain offers up a post today that covers another disturbing trend the future of the books that nonetheless has some positive ramifications:

“We are undergoing what they call in California ‘a paradigm shift,'” writes Nigel Burwood at Bookride, his brilliant blog about bookselling. “An older more bookish generation is dying off or downsizing,” he explains. And as a result, booksellers like Burwood “are being offered far too many books.”

So what’s going to happen to all those old books when their resale value starts approaching zero? Perhaps its time for everyone to raid their libraries before things get too late. If I remember Fahrenheit 451 correctly, the state burned books to keep people from thinking about historically significant ideas. Apparently, we’re doing that now in some parts of the country. In the future, perhaps we’ll burn books to keep warm.

Nevertheless, as Crain writes:

To look on the bright side, if the trend persists, I might someday be able to afford a library much ampler and substantial than I ever thought possible.

At this rate, I may never buy a new older book again.


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