They say people don’t read books anymore, but that’s not true.
How do I know? Well, for one thing, look at the growth of gigantic book stores like Barnes & Noble. We even have one at the Sandusky Mall, which is much, much bigger than the older Waldenbooks store. Business people don’t build brand new stores unless they think they’re going to make a profit. Thus, my conclusion: people ARE reading books — or at least they are buying them.
Will computers someday replace books in paper form? Maybe. Our public library tried “computer” books a while back — books could be programmed into small computer devices, which were available to circulate. I’ve not heard anything about them for many years, so I assume they were not a success. I wrote a newspaper story about them when they first became available, and they had some advantages. They were equipped with a dictionary, so all you had to do was click on a word you didn’t know, and a definition would appear. Also, you could change the size of the type, so if you needed large print, the computer screen could easily enlarge it. “Bookmarking” your place in the computer was very easy, without worrying about the bookmark falling out. No folded-over pages, either.
But, despite all these advantages, the computer book did not catch on. There’s apparently something special and irreplaceable about the feel of paper and the manual act of turning pages. So here’s the question: what do you do with a book once you’ve finished reading it?
If you visit my house, you’ll know. Books we’ve read since our college days clutter every corner of our house. We have quite a few bookshelves, and even more stacks of books on the floor, not to mention books in plastic crates and on end tables. There is a huge pile of books next to my bed as well.
Why do we keep them? Will we ever read these books again? Probably not.
My sister-in-law has a new policy. She says that, after she reads books, she gives them away to others. That makes a lot of sense.
That same sister-in-law has a 40-hour-a-week “volunteer” job at her local public library in Connecticut, managing the Friends of the Library’s book store adjacent to the library. That used book store pulls in a profit which is then donated to the library itself. The book store she manages operates with 100 volunteers also donating their time. Some are high school students; others, empty-nesters; still others, appointed by the courts to give community service. After years of actively soliciting the public’s used books, she said her book store receives 350 books, on average, donated each day. Volunteers pore over the used books, pulling the ones that are special or antique or rare, and setting prices to sell others. Some are shipped abroad; others are donated to prisons or schools. For family birthdays and special occasions, my sister-in-law always sets aside interesting books as gifts for us – books she comes across in her volunteer job. She’s even stashed away a few special books for herself to read at some point in the future when she has the time.
Before I talked to my sister-in-law, I never gave much thought to what happens to used books. We put used newspapers into the trash or the recycling bin, but not books. Reading a book does not make it unusable — unless left out in the rain or smashed into a peanut butter sandwich at the bottom of a book bag, the words most often stay intact. People’s eyes don’t literally touch the page and don’t destroy the words as they read them.
So, someday all those beautiful, glossy books sold at Barnes & Noble will end up — where? Read a book, and pass it along to a friend — or donate it to the Norwalk Public Library’s semi-annual Friends of the Library book sale.