The Golden Age of Paper Books

I spent 15 years accumulating paper books. At the peak, my personal library had over 1,000 titles ranging from sci-fi classics to Lonely Planet Turkmenistan. Seven bookshelves worth.

When we downsized homes, the book collection got the axe. So, my son and I drove over 3 full Subaru-loads of books to the public library. I felt super-proud: “Look at all these books! We’re great people, son!”

The Donation Glut

But, I was surprised to be greeted by a dismayed library employee. “Oh, more books to donate? Uh, yeah. Follow me,” he said. We crammed the books into a back storeroom where tens of thousands of books were already stacked to the ceiling. Apparently, I wasn’t the only guy moving to e-books. “They’re coming so fast we can’t process them,” the librarian said.

Our local library a few years ago was a sea of empty shelves.  Now, they’re out of space to store the books they have.

Our local Goodwill is similarly overwhelmed with paper books — though a few too many have Fabio on the cover.

Used Book Sales

Buying paper books has changed as well. Where we once had to scour local used book dealers for specific titles, the market has become much more efficient by going online. If I want to find the one guy selling Catcher in the Rye in Ukranian for 99 cents, it’s doable.

The leading marketplace is operated by a division of the Half-Priced Books chain where they allow independent used book dealers to sell through their site. I just bought a book titled The Non-Designer’s Design Book for $4.98 (99 cents plus 3.99 shipping) on their Marketplace while the same book is $19.16 new on Amazon.

Paper’s Golden Age

Times have never been better for lovers of paper books.

Sadly, the boom in cheap paper books is only temporary. With the increasing percentage of books being bought new electronically and the lack of a resale option for e-books, the glut of paper books will end.

I’ll miss it.

Michael Girdley