Rescuing Books

Brian Thill in his blog:

Antique_coverless_book_bundles_$29_from_restoration_hardware_2 Periodically the corporate headquarters would provide us with a new itemized inventory, and we would spend several days scouring the shelves to cull the proper number of books from the stock. Inevitably we would be left with great mounds of mass-market paperbacks that some obscure set of calculations had determined were no longer profitable for us to keep in stock. These were often books that had arrived in great numbers, loaded down with promotional displays, back-to-school promotional inserts, and more. What was necessary to have on hand in great numbers one month was literally garbage the next. The procedure in this case would be to rip the covers from each of the books, scan and bundle the covers and mail them to headquarters, and toss the piles of naked books in the trash compactor out behind the mall. In addition to being prohibited from selling coverless books, we were also forbidden to give them away; just as, each night, after having spent hours baking our fresh bread at the Italian restaurant where I worked every night cooking pasta, we were told to scoop up the heaping trays full of uneaten bread and throw them in the trash. When you’re poor, the pain of participating in the discarding of perfectly good things is particularly acute; it eats at you, you take it personally, as if that part of the world that can spare these things (a part you are kept from) is going out of its way to rub your face in it.

So I started making off with the coverless books. I’d volunteer to haul the great carts laden with garbage-books out to the compactor, and as I tossed the overstocked romance novels and spy thrillers into the bin, I would set aside the abject copies of Virginia Woolf or Philip K. Dick and tuck them behind the wall, retrieving them at the end of the night, when I would take them home and add them to my humble shelves. Neatly stacked, you could hardly tell they lacked covers. And who needed a cover anyway: hadn’t the old adage taught us how meaningless a cover was?

More here.

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