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Booking Through Thursday: Something Old, Something New

February 24, 2011

Today, Booking Through Thursday asks

All other things being equal–do you prefer used books? Or new books? (The physical specimen, that is, not the title.) Does your preference differentiate between a standard kind of used book, and a pristine, leather-bound copy?

The very best of all is new-to-me! Whether it’s an advance review copy so new that not all the pages are divided, or a slightly yellowed old book that smells of that heavenly musty book smell, I am very happy to bring it home and learn its story. Having said that, ornate leather-bound copies are kind of intimidating. Pretty to look at, but not so much to read. Sort of like china dolls that I couldn’t imagine any child actually playing with.

Between brand new books or used books, it will wind up being a question of cost. I’m less likely to buy hardcovers brand new, without them being substantially discounted. Since one of the biggest used bookstores I can think of is within walking distance, that’s an incentive. And given a limited book budget, and limited bookshelf space, I’d rather use the library as much as I can.

I love used books because they have their history. I like to open them in the middle and breathe in the old-book smell, which is dusty and sweet. What I love best of all is the evidence that the book had a history before me. I love owning books inscribed to someone else. Not only do I get the story the book contains, but also the story that copy has lived, with bus tickets or photographs used as bookmarks. Or inscribed to someone (a friend, a lover?) who loves to cook and has a running joke about elephants. (These are specific examples from my shelves.)

That said, I’d never turn down a new book, just because it wasn’t as well seasoned.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2011 9:13 am

    Everybody seems to have a love affair with used books. I think I ought to buy more used books.

    • February 24, 2011 9:25 am

      A love affair is a good thing to call it, as it’s often a purely physical thing for me- I love the smell of a good used book.

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