The Life Cycle Of A Book Essay

, Research Paper

The life cycle of a book· Books circulate endlessly, like blood or money or circulating libraries. A minority, of course, goes straight from publisher to pulping machine, or from author to “lesser-known local poets” shelves. During the second world war, small boys and girls were sent out on to strange doorsteps to collect books for turning, allegedly, into cartridge cases, giving a new generation of collectors a useful start. But most books go through catabolic and anabolic cycles, just as foodstuffs are broken down to simple acids and usable energy, before the nutritional Lego is remoulded nearer to the heart’s or liver’s desire, using up some of the energy from the first step. So books, their information consumed, pass to charity shops, jumble sales, or through the hands of literate dustmen, to the lowest rung of dealer; and from there, they start an irregular climb, increasing in order, negative entropy, and incidentally price, until they reach the top collector of Wodehouse or Waugh, or the ultimate specialist in cheese or chess, concrete or campanology. The nutritional wheel is driven, eventually, by the sun; the book-wheel has more obscure fuel. Some amateur economists believe it is maintained by the dissolution of great libraries, or the occasional bankruptcy. The proper survival of the system depends on everyone knowing their place: as soon as dustmen started taking their finds into Sotheby’s, a whole ecology was under threat. The old wheel depended on an army of diverse servitors, typically the under-occupied wives of clergymen, who filled chilly corridors with shelves of rescued books. Once a week, they would retire to the bath with a trade journal: page after close-printed page of books wanted by dealers further up the food-chain. They consulted copies of Book Auction Records, often (not in the case of vicar’s wives) stolen from the local reference library. The arrival of the internet, and the ordination of women, have changed all that. Books may travel with minimal friction from garbage can to Getty. The machine still employs an army of servitors, but it is an army without ranks, and everyone has equal access to information. Round the great databases, like chapels round a high altar, are clusters of newsgroups, where you can enquire the price of a rare book, exchange hints on packing, and make envious fun of ABE, Amazon and Alibris. A satirical rogue in Colchester has just discovered that, of the 116,521 Bibles to be found on ABE, 2,052 are listed as “signed”. The pseudonymous Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (Hodder & Stoughton, “edited by Joyce Reardon”) is printed in brown ink, always a bad sign. A critical passage in the narrative is withheld; one is directed to the website of the equally spurious Beaumont University, where persistence reveals that Professor Reardon is professor of parapsychology, and, eventually, that the Diary is a back-story spin-off for a Stephen King haunted-house mini-series, Rose Red, which has its own websites. Props and souvenirs were offered on eBay: the Diary can be bought through Amazon for £9 new, or up to £10.55 used. Another mystery. · “Although Shariat laws controls public moral, yet they have not been rendered insensible and dead to all feelings. They lead a jolly and mirthful life. All the psychological tendencies of human being play their role here also Natural human beauty is found in ample sufficiency. In distant hill districts residents amuse themselves with unique and piquant dances and songs. It is here that one comes across a jewel in rags.” M I, Zabeeh, Glimpses of Swat, Peshawar, 1954. EK


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