I watched somebody steal a book yesterday. Couldn’t do a thing about it: it wasn’t my popstand. And they say you can’t really shout “Thief!” unless the person walks out of the store with the merchandise: up until that point, there’s a chance he was just doing some more shopping.
Besides, the proprietor of the shop gave him permission to steal it. Well, what she actually said was, “Fine. Go ahead. What do I care?” in tones that suggested she really DID care. And the thief didn’t look the least bit abashed.
See, what he was doing was opening the book to the pages he wanted and photographing them with his phone. He got the information he needed without having to pay for–or walk out with–the book. I was amazed, as I always am by twenty-first century technological advances.
And, as occasionally happens, I thought of a way to apply this newfound power for good. If you have a camera in your phone which is sharp enough to copy pages, it can be a help to you in your housekeeping.
Just a year ago, I wrote a column about ways to take care of those stacks of books around your place: beside the couch, behind the toilet, next to the bed…wherever it is you do your reading and have a stockpile of books you started or were thinking of starting. I’ll wait while you rush back through this website to reread…back so soon? No wonder you buy so many books: you must be a speedreader.
As any good stockpiler knows, we also stack up those OTHER piles of books: the piles of books we’ve finished but aren’t quite done with.
You bought that guide to Berwyn because you were thinking of taking an adventure vacation this winter, and put in a bookmark at the list of the best restaurants. This is because you’re too sophisticated to rip out those pages and then donate the rest of the book to the Book Fair. (PLEASE tell me you’re too sophisticated to do that.) Just pull out your phone, snap a picture or two, and you have the information. The book can now go into the To Donate pile so I can sell it to some other eager Berwyn-curious soul.
Think of all the cookbooks you can now pass along: those beautiful tomes you bought because the pictures were so pretty but which had only one recipe that didn’t require sixteen ingredients or a five hundred dollar nutmeg grater. Snap….you have the recipe AND the picture so you can show your guests what that Pumpkin Spice Ragout was supposed to look like.
The same goes for those books of poetry where you liked just one verse, the book of comic strips with that one strip you were going to copy and send to your sister because Garfield reminded you of your nephew, the book on current politics with the one footnote you wanted to be able to cite next time you’re at the Red And Blue Pub, and that book Aunt Booney sent you which you have no intention of reading but want to remember the title for your thank you note. Snap snap snap…plunk plunk plunk into the To Donate pile.
So I hope you will apply your phone in a responsible way when it comes to books (or even phonebooks.) I did just think of an evil application. Not that you would ever be tempted to do this, of course, but that co-worker who keeps stealing your stapler and loves to read mysteries would probably never speak to you again if you picked up the latest by her favorite and sent her a photograph of the page where the detective announces that the butler’s estranged ex-wife killed Miss Scarlett in the Conservatory.
For myself, I would do that only to someone I saw stealing books in a bookstore.