Heartless Salesperson or Noble Philantrophist? — Hello, I’m Sindhu and I Have a Big Problem

When I told my friends for the first time that my mum asked me to select books that I don’t want and sell them to a second-hand store because I had run out of room for books, a lot of my friends looked at me sympathetically. Some of them looked physically sick at the idea. I felt horrible at the thought at first, but I did it. I did it a couple of times more after that and now I don’t mind at all. It’s true! And yes, I am ready for the brickbats now.

I realize now that my discomfort at the idea had more to do with the thought of sorting through my many books than with actually giving some of them away. Because I’m a lazy fuck who hates sorting and cleaning with the passion of a thousand burning suns. (10 Things I Hate About You? Anybody?) I wouldn’t admit that to myself initially, but I know it’s true.

Firstly, I don’t mind borrowing books from a friend. I haven’t ever had an obsessive need to “own” a book unless it’s one I truly adore and want to reread repeatedly.

But, you’ll discover very quickly, if you haven’t already, I’m obsessive in a number of other ways. I read with a determination bordering on obsession. I carry a book with me EVERYWHERE. I have offended friends by bringing a book to dinner dates with them. “How boring do you think we’re going to be?” But I can’t stop myself.

You can only imagine how obsessively I buy books. I have called it a distinct pleasure from actually reading books in the past.  My little 7X7 hostel room is cluttered with about a hundred books. “Why don’t you take some of them home?” people ask me. The answer is that I do take 10 or so books home each time I go home. But I also bring them back in large numbers. And I buy new books. A lot. I also have my parents carry books back each time they visit. But the process of bring-back-books-and-buy-even-more never stops.

I have a pretty sweet deal in a second-hand bookstore I’ve worked in before. I can go trade in books for new books. He gives me a twenty percent mark-up if I trade books and not ask for cash, and he gives me a twenty-five percent employee discount! This is the best thing, because, while I have to give away books, I get to come back with brand new ones (Well, some are second-hand, but you get the idea!) so I’m happy, and they’re always fewer in number than the ones I’ve sold so my mum is also happy. And as the owner of the store points out, such understandings ensure that the stock in his store is in circulation instead of stagnating. Stagnation is a very real problem of chain bookstores, I’ve noticed, because, a lot of the time, the only new books they get in are new releases. (Also, a lot of chain bookstores have begun to stock only popular and well-known books in addition to any number of absurd self-help and “management” books which make me want to throw up. But that’s a rant for another day.)

And now, I’m panicking. I’m in my fourth year and I’m in a five-year course. That means that the books need to start going and they need to stop coming in at some point before the start of the next academic year. –sob-

And I can’t carry them to my hometown, where the aforementioned bookstore is, because of the luggage weight limits on the damned planes. I’ve considered couriering them home and I will do that with my favourites, but at the beginning of the next academic year, I will have a book sale in my college and give my books away to my juniors for cold hard cash! The thought that I will have to part with so many books at once without even the immediate comfort of new ones is heartbreaking. But I will do it. I know I need to. And I will take comfort in the thought that my books will go into eager hands and result in many happy hours for yet another person.

In 1710, the Statute of Anne, the first copyright Act in the world was passed with the over-arching aim of the “encouragement of learning”. That phrase has been ringing in my ears ever since I heard it in my intellectual property law class because of its simplicity and effectiveness.(Unlike a lot of legal concepts which are lacking in both)  Wouldn’t selling my books be a way to encourage learning?

I love my books because each one of them has shaped me as a person, has helped me to develop and express my thoughts, and has, most importantly, made me very, very happy. There are some which I will reread repeatedly, when I am alone and need the comfort of an old friend, but I will spend most of my time reading new books and soaking up what they have to offer. Keeping all my books seems to me to be unnecessary hoarding, considering I own so many of them, mostly thanks to the generosity and understanding of my parents. My mum gave me a credit card for “emergencies and books”. Her logic was that books are always emergencies anyway. (<3) I know that not everyone is as fortunate as me. Second hand books and libraries are the best solutions for such people. One day, I will start a library. One day, I will write books and donate copies to libraries. One day, I will be a lawyer always, always on the side of fair use and public interest. Until then, my little book sale will hopefully contribute towards the “encouragement of learning”.

Besides, when one hasn’t a choice but to sleep with books on one’s BED, one’s only alternatives are divine intervention or a book sale!

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