Book values
November 11, 2019

There are few things I enjoy more than pawing through shelves, tables or boxes full of used books. I love used book stores, thrift stores with a used book section, and book fairs for charities. I am drawn to such places like a moth to a lamp. It’s a form of treasure hunting for me.

But, sometimes shopping for used books makes me sad. I get discouraged when it becomes painfully evident that books have so little value to so many people these days that they are often virtually thrown away. I’ve seen them sold by the pound, by volume (fill a shopping bag for $5). It’s all better than a trip to the landfill, I suppose, but still a bit disheartening. I’m happy enough to be able to fill my own shelves within the constraints of my book buying budget, but it is distressing to see wonderful novels, classic works of literature, useful reference books, and well-written works of non-fiction stacked in disorder at fire sale prices.

Case in point – the book pictured here is a like-new copy of Traditions & Encounters recently acquired at a thrift store for 25 cents. The new retail price of this magnificent book is $150 . Who thought so little of this wonderful book that it was tossed aside and sold for the merest fraction of its worth?

Perhaps within that thought lies the answer to my question. The true worth of a book, like that of a work of art, is determined by its beholder, its reader. The worth of a book simply does not equate to its monetary value. I’ll have to be content with that notion for now.