Dear Santa Blogs:
I don’t remember seeing anyone with my problem writing to you before. People are always giving me books for Christmas, and that’s great, but almost all of them are brand new. I prefer books with mileage on them. Even old library discards are good: the more beat-up they are, the more readers have enjoyed them. I think it’s like a seal of approval. How can I convince my relatives to stop buying me books in shrinkwrap?”
Dear Ata Boy:
Like most helpers and advisers, I wish you had come to me earlier in your problem. If you had asked me this question around, oh, the last weekend in July, I could have done a lot more for you. Paradoxically, you could also have waited and asked me later: oh, about the last weekend of NEXT July. But let’s see what we can do.
Have you tried stocking up on bandages? If someone asks you why (preferably someone who has you on the gift list) you can say, “Well, I read a lot, but when it’s a book that isn’t broken in, I get a lot of paper cuts.” This may be too subtle for some of your associates.
You DO talk about books, right? When telling your colleagues about the great mystery you’ve just finished, get in a few lines like “I knew something big was coming up because somebody had folded down a corner of the page” or “If that book had still had its jacket, it would be crushed now, the way I was holding on so tight.”
Do your friends hang out in used bookstores? Do they know about the online venues for buying second-hand books? If they don’t get any farther in Amazon, you may wish to invest a bit of money in gift cards to some of your favorite hunting places. They may, of course, wind up buying nothing but books for themselves, but converting them to pre-owned books is at least a start.
An investment simply of time is to do research on the books you’d like to have. If there is someone who sees your wish list, make sure none of the titles you list is actually in print. Then they HAVE to hunt among the dealers in shelfworn joys.
I suppose the best way to get the point across is to give your friends second-hand books. You know your friends better than I do, of course. You may have to say things like, “I saw this while I was browsing through abebooks and knew you had to have it” so they don’t think you simply took a book off your own shelf and wrapped it. Give them four or five books to a package just to let them know what you got for the same amount of money you’d have had to spend on a current bestseller. Perhaps you could add a videocassette too, just to reinforce how much you like retro media. If they complain, you have only yourself to blame. You picked the wrong friends.