Sunday, January 07, 2007

To Kill A Mockingbird

A Washington Post article on the adoption by Virginia libraries of the practice of ruthlessly culling unread books from their collections is getting a fair amount of play. Here's the Captain's Quarters version. I noticed with particular sadness that one book that hasn't been borrowed in two years from one library system is Harper Lee's achingly beautiful To Kill A Mockingbird. How terrible.

But then I wondered. Perhaps people are reading it, but via purchase rather than library loan. I haven't been to the library in decades (except once to get out of the rain); I don't even have a library card. If I wanted to read a great American novel that I didn't already have, I'd buy it, probably online.

The fact that the libraries seem to be replacing culled books with Stephen King's latest work may knock a hole in my theory: if I wanted to read the latest Stephen King book, I'd buy that too. On the other hand, the very latest Stephen King book is presumably available only in hardback, and some may not want to waste the money and shelfspace on a fairly expensive item that they know they will read only once.

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