Monday, 28 February 2011

Books for Sale - New, but second-hand - why?

I live in York which is a two-university town blessed with a variety of enticing second-hand book shops. In the past I lived near Alnwick in Northumberland, the location of the largest second-hand book shop in the UK. I love books and find it difficult to let them go; some of my books have been in my possession since childhood. Others are newer acquisitions but are ‘antiquarian’ the oldest is a book of seafaring charts dated 1685. Yet others are what are termed ‘fine editions’; leather or parchment bound. Undoubtedly, the look, feel and smell of a book adds to its appeal. Therefore, although I have also begun to read Kindle editions and have an extensive audio book section on itunes, there is no substitute, in my opinion, for a well presented physical book.

Inevitably, over time books begin to gain a used ‘patina’. Further use leads to deterioration if paperback or perhaps if printed on acidic paper. This is to be avoided, in my view, for as long as possible. These aging signs are apparent in my favourite book, sadly now out of print. The book in question is entitled - ‘Somewhere down the crazy river: journeys in search of giant fish’ by Paul Boote and Jeremy Wade. My copy is now nearly 20 years old and beginning to look faded and dog-eared. I desperately want a better looking copy. I have approached one of the authors – he has a pristine hardback edition but wants more than 40 pounds for it.

With this in mind, I am at a loss to understand the growing number of publishers who are producing ‘ready aged’ books. You may have seen the sort of thing – brand new books that look like they have been to Kathmandu and back in a backpacker’s kit. I have avoided these books so far, maybe I'm missing out on good reads, but the fad seems pointless to me. Far better, surely, to have the volume age naturally in your possession, remembering each and every fold and coffee stain, not some purchased ‘street-cred’; like a pair of pre-ripped denims. I never bought a pair of them either!

Does anyone else feel this is a stupid fashion?

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