Friday, July 14, 2006

LibraryThing and Book-Buying

When I was reading a recent issue of Poets & Writers, I noticed an article about a website in which people have uploaded the titles of their books. This website, named http://www.librarything.com, also allows those bibliophiles with similar books to exchange messages. This website attracts those people who feel particularly proud of the books that they have collected. I managed to add the titles of 200 books in my account in just a few hours time. I haven’t yet added any others. Listing the first 200 hundred books is free; adding additional titles costs $10.00 per year or $25.00 for a lifetime membership.

It would seem logical that this website would attract those readers with odd, eclectic, or esoteric tastes. Actually, the titles and authors found in abundance are the same ones generating interest in the mainstream, such as J.K. Rowling and Robert Jordan. If I hadn’t listed a few works of fiction, I would have had far fewer matches with those who read the same books. Perhaps I should have resisted trying to find readers with similar tastes in fiction and should have concentrated on listing my more obscure titles.

I am surprised that no one else who has listed books with librarything has Julene Bair’s One Degree West or Anthony Sobin’s The Sunday Naturalist. Julene Bair’s collection of essays won several regional prizes. I luckily found a signed copy of her book at the Washburn University bookstore. Anthony Sobin taught creative writing at Wichita State for about ten years before he left teaching to run a gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Sunday Naturalist remains his only collection. It was a popular collection of poems in Wichita. I suspect that one day Anthony Sobin will release a second and perhaps a third collection of poems.

Besides finding something that I want to read, one of my motives in buying books has been to collect those titles that are not easily found elsewhere—either in bookstores or libraries. Although I still like browsing through area bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble occasionally, the great majority of my purchases anymore can only be made at Amazon. When I once tried to order a book through the Waldenbooks in Leavenworth, I discovered that none of their suppliers had that title in stock, which confirmed the necessity of shopping online. Barnes & Noble sells books online, but they take no care in shipping them. After I received two books that had been badly mangled in shipping, I swore that I would never again order a book online from Barnes & Noble. As a book-buying consumer, I am also unhappy with Books-a-Million because of their narrow selection of books at the store located at the Legends in Kansas City. Owned by conservative Christians, Books-a-Million limits its selection of current events to those books exhibiting a conservative perspective. Very little shelf space is devoted to poetry and jazz. One entire wall is devoted to Christian living, but very few people seem to frequent that area. Its Christian bias hasn’t prevented Books-a-Million from stocking books about sex—both novels and manuals. Even Henry Miller is represented with copies of both Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. My wife likes shopping for fantasy novels and pens at Books-a-Million. Refusing to buy anything there, I pick up a jazz discography or a history title, one that I might order from Amazon at a later date, and sit reading in the fiction section while she shops, leaving my book on a table or on one of the shelves when I leave.