Society has learned through books since they became a mass production in the 1800’s with the emergence of the Industrial Revolution. They allowed people to revel in imaginative worlds, and unearthed thoughts and ideas beyond proximity and experiences.
From fiction to philosophical works, memoirs, poetry, self-help and non-fiction books the words of the authors I read consume me. As the cherished Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges once said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library”
The arrival of Amazon into the consumer’s world revolutionized a variety of industries. Amazon’s competitive edge threatened the future of many businesses just as the internet’s popularity started to rise. In 1997 Amazon became a large online bookseller beating out brick-and-mortar and independent stores. They later developed the Kindle e-reader in 2007 with books going for $9.99 re-defining the way people read. Later came Apple with iBooks and Barnes and Noble with the Nook.
Overtime, publishers and authors struggled with the convergence of technology and books. Borders declared bankruptcy in 2011 and Barnes and Noble sought new ways to rise against society’s digital changes. The sacrifices the book industry made in order to avoid submerging and crumbling against technology is similar to the music industry’s fight with streaming sites.
In the age of digital books and Amazon, used bookstores and book exchanges serve as a bibliophile secret leveling the same low prices provided by e-readers and Amazon. Although these used bookstores sequence monetary problems within the book industry, as a means to preserve a civilization and support local small businesses I seek old writers in hidden used bookstores. The gems you find in them are precious.
Collecting books has become a hobby of mine; it is my meditation and stimulation. Art collector and socialite Isabella Stewart Gardner had a collection of over 3,000 books. A collection I can only wish to one day have.
I picked up this hobby of collecting books when I walked into a used book exchange store in my hometown and spent a total of $15 on six books. My copy of Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince was only 45 cents and I received Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore for free. Imagine that. It took everything in me not to buy all the books I touched in the cramped bookshelves. Hemingway, Nabokov, Voltaire, Bukowski all for five dollars or less. Most recently, I found Sartre and Camus lying side by side in the classics section of the Princeton Public Library’s used books section.
Now I know how incredible it is to get a brand new book and create your own marks. Most of my books have stains, notes, highlights, and scribbles on the pages. But I absolutely love it. Following the thoughts of complete strangers, seeing the passages they highlighted, and reading the comments they left on the edges of the pages adds onto the serene experience of reading. You’ll never know what you can find in a used book, let alone in a used bookstore.