It’s the holiday season. The people I overheard at the bus stop the other day were discussing shopping on the bus. It can be a long trip from here, and evening traffic out of New York (ironically) is quite heavy this time of year. Bored commuters, sitting on the bus with their phones, shop. I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only one with the overhead light on during the fully dark ride home this week. At one point the driver seemed to think it was a mistake on my part and snapped it off. I carry a book light with me for just such eventualities, but I had that odd feeling one gets when everyone else got the memo but you didn’t. In any case, I was reading a physical book, not shopping.
Then I read about a book I need for my research. Problem is, I don’t have an institution, or a wealthy sponsor, so I often buy books used. Back in my teaching days Amazon was new, and the idea of buying books online foreign and unfamiliar. Now you can’t find a bookstore when you want one. In any case, this particular book was on offer on eBay. Now, I haven’t used eBay for quite a while. I never think of it as a place to find reading material, but there it was. Who would’ve thought research would ever lead in this direction? The price was reasonable, so I signed in as a guest and placed my order. With out of print books like this you run the risk of price-gouging or sudden unavailability—the independent researcher’s nightmare.
When the confirmation page came up, I couldn’t help but notice that the header was in Russian. I wondered if Trump’s dream had really finally come true, or if the eBay on which I ordered an out-of-print book was really a trap. How do you find out? Who do you tell when your current government is completely at the beck and call of the Russian government? I was in a brown study for a while. The book, used, on Amazon was listed at over a thousand dollars, and this for a paperback published in 2009. People will pay quite a lot for certain books, even if they don’t retain their resale value. Ideas, it seems, are worth more than money. But we no longer have a government to protect our interests. Not even research, it seems, is safe any more.