There’s a certain kind of person—many of with whom I work—who trade in the currency of books. These are individuals who would rather be paid in books than in cash, and who worry of book orders shipped that seem to take too long to arrive, as if the rent check will be late because of it. Who check the tracking number multiple times a day and can’t rest secure until the book is within their doors. These people tend to be educated, whether formally or on their own, and they often wonder why the world can’t be a more amenable place because reading makes you realize the potential we miss. My own reading convinces me that capitalism is mostly to blame. It rewards the greedy and makes them try to fix elections and posture against other greedy leaders. Books often show a better way.
I realize not everyone likes to read. In fact, if you do so for pleasure you’re part of a minority group. Those who read, and conduct surveys of those who do, estimate that only about five percent of the population reads and trades in books. That makes us a very small nation indeed. But some countries, such as Iceland, have higher proportions of readers, and other nations have lower. Books, as a whole, saw a resurgence of interest during the pandemic because they are a way of getting together with other people and going to faraway places all within the safety of your own home. I like to think a book-lined room is also well insulated. Especially if all those little gaps are caulked with smaller tomes. Occasionally photos of individual libraries circulate and go viral. We’re impressed, we bookish folk, by those who read so much.
The book industry’s having a bad economic year. In my own humble efforts I tend to read more than a book a week, on average. I do this by reading more than one book at a time. The amazing thing about that is you can pick up one of the multiple titles you’re reading and resume where you left off. Very seldom is there any confusion or even forgetting what a book is about. A physical book has so many tactile cues to remind the reader of things. That’s why those of us who like to read tend to keep books. We like to be able to go back and since we can’t predict our future wants and needs with any precision, we err on the side of collecting. I do give books away but often I come to regret it because I need some unexpected volume again. Books have their own economy. If only we could all trade in books, it would be a very different, and I believe better, world.