SCS Blog Author Page
Posts by James O'Donnell
Blog: Neglect and Survival: On the Biographies of Old Books
August 15, 2019
I bought an old book the other day.
Used to be, that wouldn’t have been the lede for any writing designed to grab your attention, but as pastimes go, it’s getting a bit less common, so maybe it will do.
It’s not just that old books have been crowded into a corner of the market for attention by media unimagined only yesterday, but that there are natural cycles that have also been disrupted. When I was young, we haunted second-hand bookshops and the like because we needed books––good books––ones that had been printed before we were born and long since gone out of print. Now we’re rich: everything seems to stay in print forever. I used to snap up $2 hardcover copies of Henry James novels on the assumption that someday I’d read them. Now I wonder what I would do with a tired old hardcover when I can count on crisp new paperbacks being deliverable to my door by Amazon in 24 hours any time I want one or e-versions to my iPad in seconds. In the 1980s, when I Read more …