Monday, December 31

book swapping

libraries are glorious.

as much as I love to read, I'm not so into owning books. books take up space in your suitcase and they can get really heavy, and if I own a book I'm almost certain never to actually read it. having a due date is pretty motivating, I guess. so I frequent the library as often as possible. how lucky I am that our society has developed these institutions that collect books and films and recordings and let almost anyone show up to borrow them almost whenever they want? I think very lucky.

libraries function as giant, never-ending book swaps. you never know who else will read the book you've just returned, or who added all this pink underlining to the novel you've just carried home with you. I don't own too many books (maybe ten?), but thousands of them have camped out temporarily on my shelves and nightstands and desks.

so I've noticed a rather cool thing recently. I know I spent a significant amount of words complaining about brainpickings the other month, but the little linkage mill still exists and does post semi-thought-provoking stuff sometimes. the thing I noticed concerns the way they link to the books they review. heaven help me if I ever, in writing about any published work, make its title into an amazon link. most sites make a habit of this kind of thing. it's my penniless loyalty to libraries that has always made such e-commercialism so annoying, I guess. but it is traditional, and I'm sure book-buying folks find it helpful and convenient and etc.

anyway--brainpickings, though as guilty as everyone else of this amazon plugging, has added parenthetical links to World Cat, so just in case you are not the book-buying type, you can find whatever book they're rhapsodizing about in your nearest library.

{ example screen-grabbed from a post about Richard Dawkin's essay collection }

the title itself is the customary amazon link, and in parenthesis Ms. Popova is kind enough to provide the version and a link to this book's listings in World Cat.

have you heard about World Cat? we used it a bit last year in Bibliography & Research Methods. sometimes it's a little icky to navigate, but the idea of the site is absolutely awesome. search for any book, and World Cat will tell you which libraries near you have copies. there is usually a way to access the catalogue through your university library too, and you can get inter-library loans set up without much trouble.

this is cool. and I definitely think libraries should share some of the attention most people just give to booksellers. open access to and free exchange of information is a beautiful concept. global book swapping, you might say.

while we were in Europe this year, I finished reading Field Tested Books--a collection of anecdotes about books read in particular places. I read bits of it on the train from Budapest to Sighi┼čoara. I read bits of it in our Bratislava hostel. it accompanied me from Slovakia to Vienna and back to Budapest again, where I scribbled a few annotations in it and left it in this pub (this pub, by the way, despite being disguised as an Irish pub, served us a marvelous Hungarian Goulash for lunch one day). they had a few shelves in their corner window, just above the radiator. I didn't find any books I wanted to take from their book swap, so I merely abandoned mine there. I am not in the habit of holding on to books I've already read, after all. I wonder if anyone else has picked it up?


Chris said...

Gasp! I think I've been to that pub.

amelia chesley said...

'tis a good place. :)

Nicola Swann said...

OMG I'VE BEEN THERE TOO. I was quite taken aback when you decided not to take a book in exchange for your own, but then I guess it makes sense if you don't like owning them!

amelia chesley said...

i guess it's weird of a bibliophile to not greedily consume and collect books, but ah well. i am undeniably weird.