Book aesthetics

I’ve been trying my best lately to bolster the Cinderella part of bookselling by frequenting second hand bookshops including those that trade via third parties like Abe Books. The service from the latter is excellent— if the trader says they will deliver by date X, they do and usually the contents are packaged so well I’ve yet to take a delivery with any sign of damage.

I’m quite choosy when I buy like this, rejecting anything that has splatters of coffee or food stains over the pages. A few marginal notes are ok but not over-zealous use of the yellow highlighter pen. It’s easy to be choosy when the book is on the shelf in front of you. But when I buy on line I’m relying on the description of the book description and sometimes those are, shall we say, a little optimistic.

Something described as being in excellent condition that arrives with crease marks on the spine or a few corners turned down are perfectly ok. What I don’t like is when a book described as ‘like new’ arrives with the outer edges all brown or yellow where they’ve been sitting on a shelf somewhere for a very long time. True that the book has not been read before but it looks grubby and smells a bit fousty. All aesthetics I know but it doesn’t make me want to pick it up. So I end up buying a pristine copy of the same book which really feels like a waste of money.

Sometimes I think I should let the seller know I’m not happy and ask for a refund but then inertia kicks in and I decide it’s not worth the hassle of queuing in the Post Office to mail it back.  I suppose if the amount I’d spent was higher I would probably make a complaint but when it cost me less than a coffee in one of the chains, I put it all down to me just being too picky.

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