Thursday, 28 August 2014

Books Are Useless

"I'll take your books if you should die and your house needs clearing," the bookseller said, in so many words, but different ones, to the effect that he didn't want to buy the bagful of books I was offering since the shop only made money on house clearances. I hate booksellers. A miserable breed, contaminated by dust and mould spores from all the grubby pages they've handled; it's rotted their souls.

I thought I could sell a few books on Charing Cross Road, where a few second-hand book shops constitute some kind of final stand for such things in London. The road has a long history of bookshops. They're dying now, of course, slowly, one-by-one, being replaced by places selling food. Soon, food is all you'll be able to buy in London. That and plastic policeman's helmets...and cheap clothes. Because everyone has to eat and wear clothes...who buys souvenir tat I don't know, but the shops don't seem to be disappearing.

The bookseller smiled awkwardly when refusing my very decent selection. Yes, you can smile you vulture! You exploiter of the dead! I'd already been refused once by a shop up the road. They claimed to have 'too much of that kind of thing'. Yes, right, you lying bastards. I knew that couldn't be true. Just admit you're not not buying, contrary to the sign that says 'Books Bought' on your door.

No-one wants books. Not even the public. Unless they're dirt cheap. Who can blame them? Even I don't want books. They're useless things...bulky...and frankly too time-consuming. It's impossible to read all the ones you own. Books needs to be transformed into iPhone-sized gadgets that you plug into your head and zap all those words into your brain, instantly. You don't buy them, just borrow for a minute. This will cause some readers to get quite ill by OD-ing on War and Peace, Ulysses and Infinite Jest in three quick hits, but so what.

A friend recently said "Nobody reads blogs". So what are you doing? I think she meant they read Tweets. I think by 'nobody' she meant people under 30. Soon it'll be true of everyone over 30 too. They say 'old' people have taken over Facebook so they're on their way down the slippery slope to giving that up for Twittter. Books must seem ridiculous to the micro-text generation. All those words! What for? What can't be said in one line? What else needs to be said?

How JK Rowling got rich I'll never know. I suppose those kids will grow out of books, or worse still, go on to keep the middlebrow literature market going. So someone's buying books. Like music, they just don't sell in the quantity they used to, I suppose. Unless they're cookery books, judging by the end-of-year sales charts. Them and 'page turning' thrillers, which are the quickest kind of novel to read because nothing's said in them that causes you to think, or linger, or re-read to fully understand. They're the Big Macs of the book world.

I think I'll have a book-burning session this afternoon. That or cut loads up and paste the pages as a collage of disgust with literature. That'll be Art, which no-one's much interested in either, unless it bears the name Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin and is in a big show at Tate Modern. Or it's nice old Art, the kind that's been made into best-selling postcards.

Now excuse me, I'm off to Tweet, then start a big fire...


  1. Ha.

    Take heart...not because anything you've said is probably wrong but, because your post has allowed me the opportunity to expound a pet theory about the future of books and music. You're welcome.
    There will be books in the future...but only hardback books, stuffed with high quality, watermarked pages...the illustrations and cover art will be glorious. Paperback books are as worthless as CDs.
    Music will always be available on vinyl....120 gram, colored vinyl in gatefold covers...also glorious.

    These are objects worth owning and there are always people who want objects.

    Of course, these will all be limited editions and prohibitively expensive, most of the content will still suck. ..and it will do nothing to improve the disposition of used book sellers. So, there's that to look forward too.

    1. All true, Erik. I seem to be the only fool left in the world who will spend over £20 on a book. I have already collaged (as I said I would in the article) several pages of one and feel it has been given a splendid new life. As you say, one day consumers/readers will fall into two categories: free on screen and expensive physical objects.

  2. Brilliant. But you're not alone, we've all been there. And just to let you know, I don't 'follow' you but I do drop in every once in a while because what you write is often very interesting. I thought I'd let you know just in case you're losing your faith. Keep at it.


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