I’m one of those annoying people who love to read, and who reads rather quickly. Not a speed reader – as I understand it, they have some sort of special technique. I have no technique – I just read voraciously. And given the prices of books, it’s a good thing my local public library has a sturdy enough selection of books to supply me.
I use the library as a proving ground – if I like an author I find in the library, I might actually purchase their books. I’ve made a stern rule in an attempt to keep my personal book collection under control: I only keep books that I would read more than once. Otherwise things start stacking up on the floor once the (quite a few) book cases are filled up.
I’ve run into a snag, though, with my local library. I’ll pick up a book that looks interesting and flip through it quickly to get an idea of the writer’s style, and then notice that it’s part of a series. Specifically, a later part of the series. So, I hop on over to the lovely library catalog – I love the computer version that allows me to look at the entire library system – to “order in” the first book in the series.
9 times out of 10, they won’t have it. Not in this library branch, not in any of the branches. I’m out of luck.
One particular author (David Weber) is rather prolific, and the selection is somewhat hit or miss. For example, the library has exactly 2 books out of his main series – and they’re the last 2 in a 10 or so part series. Talk about frustrating. Of another author that I decided I like, they had the first 3 books, skipped the middle section, and showcased the 9th book in the series.
I’m not sure if there’s some vast librarian conspiracy going on (we’re going to torment them by only letting them read #3 in the series!) or if there’s some attrition going on that the library hasn’t caught on to. Either way, it’s somewhat pointless to carry the latter half of a series.
Perhaps they think that the increased digital presence of the library renders books obsolete. I hope not. I’d much rather snuggle up on the sofa with a good book and a few cats than sit in front of my computer and try to read. And don’t even get me started on the “portable” book readers – ew. Hurts my eyes, and costs insane amounts of money – money that I could invest in my own personal library of first editions.
(yes, I collect first editions of authors that I really really like. Somewhere down the road that full set of Tad Williams firsts is going to be worth some money.) Don’t get me wrong – the rest of my collection is a cheerfully mismatched set of dingy paperbacks – a large part of them second-hand.
Photograph: a very few of my books are old, and two of these I keep for the illustrations, not the writing. Book publishers in the 1920s had the right idea: books should look special.