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Libraries and Rare Books



        The alternative to security measures is to make the book unavailable. I've
had many run-ins with libraries (most notably an institution whom I won't
mention, in order to protect the overbearing, pretentious, unhelpful
corporate-think librarians working there at the time, except to say the
initials of the place are Washington University) where I was told that the
books I needed to reference were only available by appointment in a limited
time frame where a working student couldn't get at them. End of lengthy
sentence.

        I would rather have a "defaced" copy I can actually read than no access at
all.

        And let's hear it for Print-On-Demand publishing and electronic books for
things like reference and rare books. No breaking spines of the Britannica
when you can just print the pages you want. No tearing pages out of the OED.
I'm waiting for publishers to realize that the book with a specialized and
limited audience can still be profitable if they keep it electronically and
print it on demand. Ever run into this scenario: "This book can't be removed
from the room, it's rare. You'll have to read it hear."
        "But it's 700 pages long and you're only open two-hours a day."
        "That's not our problem."
        "Can I copy the sections I need?"
        "No, it's under copyright."
        "But it's out of print and you have the only known copy in the whole
sidereal universe."
        "That's not our problem. And by the way, we're shorting our reading hours
to 30 minutes a day."

Actually, I love most libraries and librarians and they have very specific
requirements that may be at odds with lovers of books as physical objects. I
believe most of them are doing their very best. And I am very glad that the
St. Louis County library system keeps good hours and a good collection as
budget permits.

And the comment about a Steven King book being worth more than a book
printed by Albertus M. just makes me sad. As an honest (i.e., not in any way
sarcastic) aside, do book collectors really believe that these books will
hold their value over the years? How many best-selling writers disappear
from the public consciousness a generation or so down the tracts (pun
alert)? It even happened to Bach for quite a long time.

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