Tuesday, August 04, 2009
One Thing I Miss About the Old Days
Most book lovers I know have at least some rather obscure writers they read, and obscure works they’d like to own. There’s no doubt that the internet has made it easier to scratch that itch. And except for the hit to one’s pocketbook that’s a good thing. In most ways.
Using the internet in the past few years has led to a substantial increase in book buying for me. A lot of those books have been just the kind of obscure works in SF and fantasy that I so love. A lot of them have been books that I read when I was a kid and have wanted to own and reread ever since. And, I’ve also been able to discover series that I had never heard of but which were right down my alley. I’ve found a lot of good reading via the net. These are good things
But… (You knew a “but” was coming didn’t you?), there’s one thing I miss about the old book hunting days. To channel for a moment my inner nerd, I remember the thrill of finding an unknown used bookstore and going in to browse the shelves for the first time. I had a list of books I wanted, although I didn’t generally have to carry the list with me. I knew in my head what I was looking for. I’d scan along the rows of colorful spines, checking for an obscure Robert E. Howard book here, searching out an Alan Burt Akers volume there. And OH the excitement when I found something I’d wanted but didn’t have. I generally didn’t ‘kiss’ the covers. Not physically anyway. But it was like finding a gold nugget in a pan of dross.
I still remember with absolute clarity one of my favorite moments in personal book hunting history. In high school I’d borrowed a book from my brother-in-law called Meat on the Hoof, about college football at the University of Texas. The book stayed with me, and when I was in my early thirties I began searching for it in used bookstores everywhere I went. Although I remembered the title and the cover, I had no idea who had written it. But I wanted that book. I even called my brother-in-law but he no longer had the copy. I couldn’t find it anywhere else either.
Then, one day, my ex-wife and I were shopping for furniture. No matter where I’ve ever gone, I’ve paid attention to the books that were in that place. So on this day I stopped to glance at a set of books being used as ‘props’ with furniture. And there lay Meat on the Hoof. I immediately took it up to the salesman and asked to buy it. He had no idea of a price for it. They sold furniture. So he just laughed and told me I could have it. I know exactly where it is on my shelves right now. And I remember almost every detail of that ‘find.”
Would it have been the same if I’d been able to search it out on the net? I know from other experiences of finding books via the net that it would not have been. Oh, I still get a sense of excitement and pleasure, but it’s like having a glass or two of wine with dinner as opposed to the buzz of those first couple of pitchers of beer on a lazy afternoon in a darkened bar when you’ve got Friday night ahead of you.
Sometimes I miss the old days. How about you?