Discussion

Oh, the superfluity. //How the appearances of books have come to matter so much.

So. Discussion time.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I’m a huge BookTube-addict. Like, literally. Every second that I’m not studying or reading, I’m watching some bookish video which I know I shouldn’t (because it doesn’t really affect my life) but I still do.

So, lately, I’ve seen a lot of booktube videos which target Book Depository (online bookstore) Now, personally, I’ve never ordered/used Book Depository (because it doesn’t deliver in India) so I don’t have any personal, first-hand experience. So please forgive and correct me if I say anything inaccurate.

So what have these videos been about? When I say that I saw a lot of videos targeting Book Depository, what do I mean? Basically, these videos have been attacking this  site for sending them books in poor condition, or delivering the books late, or messing up their orders. 

Now, I totally don’t want to talk about the latter two points, about the late deliveries and messed up orders, because those are probably issues which are worth complaining about. Let’s put that aside, and talk about the first thing I mentioned, i.e., books being in poor condition. 

Naturally, when I heard this, I wanted to know what exactly this ‘poor condition’ is. What this condition turned out to be? A mere smudge on the cover, or some kind of small cut, or a small break in the spine, or a small part of the cover folded. Obviously, the book – the words and the pages in the book – were NOT harmed in any way, but that tiny break in the spine was enough to make a whole complain video about that site?? Hilarious.

I know that a lot of people like to keep their books in pristine condition, I’m not holding anything against you guys. You have your own rights and desires, and ofc everyone else needs to respect that. I too, if given a choice between a tattered copy and a new shining copy, would definitely pick up the the new one.

But when did appearance and such trivialities become so important, that they actually have an upper hand to our reading experience? When and how did all this become so important? When I watched those videos complaining about how there was some smudge on their book cover or something of that sort, the one thing going on in my mind was, “how is that affecting your reading experience? Is that smudge making it difficult for you to read? 

As long as you can hold the book in your hands, and read the words and soak up the story, why would someone care about something so trivial? It would have been a completely different matter, had it been something major such as pages not there in the book, or words not properly printed, or something which literally obstructs your reading. But things which have to do with appearance, it just seems a bit too much to me. I mean, it’s okay to be irked at something like this (I too get irritated when I see something wrong in the book) but to make a full blown-out video complaining and talking about the website is way too much for me. Somehow, it just doesn’t sit well with me, how things like that can matter so much.

A lot of people might argue that after all, we’re paying for it, so we deserve to get perfect, pristine books. But, technically, we’re getting all these books at huge discounts. You’re paying less than half the price for the book, and you’re irked by a small little mark?

Being from India, we don’t have a lot of such amazing sites available. There’s Amazon and Flipkart, and they’re cheaper than full-price, but not cheap enough to buy 15 books a month. And when I see people shopping from Book Outlet and Book Depository and such amazingness at prices like $1 per book, a small part of me wails inside. Here, at least in Mumbai, if you want really cheap books, you’ll have to go to those roadside booksellers who keep stacks of books and boy, they are in really bad condition. But over the time, I’ve become used to this, dismissing this as trivial and concentrating on the fact that at least I have the book.

So, maybe it’s the way I’ve come to live, and maybe it’s my problem alone, and some of you probably think I’m mad, but since I see a problem here, I felt the need to address it.

According to me, what is the use of investing such thought and effort into trivialities likes these? As long as you have the book, read the book and enjoy! It’s not a crime to want a perfect bookshelf (ofc not) but where’s the limit? Do we attack anyone or anything which kills this beauty, or do we learn to overlook it and concentrate on things far more important than that (like reading.)


Please feel free to leave any kind of opinion/s below. In fact, I urge you all to leave your opinions/your take on the issue down below. I would love to read everyone else’s thoughts!

I still love BookTube; I’m a total addict. Also, I’m not trying to target/attack any specific Booktuber (IT’S ALL GENERALISED GUYS).

 

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18 thoughts on “Oh, the superfluity. //How the appearances of books have come to matter so much.

  1. I completely agree – although I love my books and try to keep them in prime condition, raising a fuss over small damages to a book is ridiculous. I think some people become so distracted by the aesthetics of books that they forget that not everyone has access to such a wide range of books and shopping options.

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  2. Idk personally I feel like a tattered book adds personality. I love going through people’s bookshelves and seeing which books have cracked spines, thumbprints, yellowed pages, etc. because it tells me what that person really loves to read, and it says a lot about them as well.

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    1. Exactly. I too love tattered bookshelves, it just adds more love and warmth to the books. A pristine bookshelf is aesthetic, definitely, but worn-out books look loved.

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  3. I always find that pristine, perfect-condition bookshelves look strange. I always want to ask people why they don’t love their books enough to read them, because that’s how books look in the store. I know it’s possible to read a book without cracking the spine or bending pages, but what purpose does that serve? Are you really enjoying the book if half of your attention is spent on making sure you don’t bend it funny?

    I buy a lot of my books second hand, and I keep three rules for the condition of the book. Two make sure it will be in good enough shape for me to be tossing it in bags and moving it around without it falling apart before I finish, and one as a general preference.
    1. The pages can’t be falling out.
    2. The cover is still attached.
    3. No mysterious stains on the book (smudges are fine, but if it’s a funny colour and once was wet, no deal)
    Anything else is fair game. Lots of my books have cracked spines, worn or creased covers, scuffs and smudges. Those things just go to show that a book has been loved and enjoyed.

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    1. Yes exactly. If one takes so much time and effort to keep their books in perfect condition, doesn’t that take away the joy from reading? I too, mostly buy books second hand, and the same conditions apply for me. The book shouldn’t look as if it’s ready to fall apart, the cover shouldn’t be torn and it shouldn’t be wet or something. Lots of my books too have cracks and they’re just no more in good condition, but looking at them makes me happy.

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  4. Okay, I definitely like my books to be untarnished, I will admit it. I try not to bend spines and I get sad if my book gets a tear or a stain or a bend or any other unsightly blemish. HOWEVER, when I buy my books from an online retailer, I know that I am taking a chance that it will reach me with a problem of some sort. After all, it’s getting shipped to me, and the shipping process is not perfect. Am I a teensy bit sad if I get a book with a tear or a slightly bent cover? Sure. But do I complain about it? Am I angry at the company who sent it? No. If you want a perfect book, you can go to a bookstore and pick one up off of a shelf – that way you know its exact condition. If you buy online, you have to accept that there is a possibility that you book might be marred in some way by the time it reaches you.

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    1. Exactly my point. If you are using the convenient means of ordering online, that too at such discounted rates, you also need to accept that the book might have minor faults, because after all it is being shipped from afar. If you want a perfect book, then you could easily avail the services of actual bookstores.
      I too, get sad if I receive a book which is slightly torn at the edge or something, but that would never compel me to actually make such a fuss about it and lodge a complaint and go all crazy.

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  5. When the Book Depository was newish and I didn’t know much about them, I won a giveaway to receive a copy of Howl’s Moving Castle from them. The book came with such an enormously beat up front cover that I assumed the Book Depository actually sold used books and I had received one. When people asked me what the Book Depository was, I told them they sold used books. (Oops?)

    Beyond the fact I like my books to look relatively nice (there’s a difference between normal use and “Someone bent the cover in 5 different directions and then threw some heavy objects at it”), there’s a decent reason for good-looking books, as you mention. People are building brands on Booktube and Instagram. They’re visual mediums that are about aesthetic. I think it’s possible to promote used books and build an aesthetic that works with that, too, but I understand why people want nice looking books.

    But I think the real problem here is that the Book Depository claims to sell new books. They do not warn you the books may be used or look significantly used or may be damaged. It’s false advertising. I buy used books all the time, but I’m still picky about them. I want them to be mildly used, and I want to know what type of damage I’m going to get. I only order used books marked “like new ” or “very good” from Amazon. It’s completely misleading that the Book Depository doesn’t describe the damage to paying customers, and it’s one of the reasons I don’t buy from them. Often their prices are not the cheapest I can find for a book, so it’s not worth getting a book that’s beat up.

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    1. I didn’t know that Book Depository claimed to sell ‘new’ books, and most websites have a bargain or used section which is separate. But like I said, I don’t know much about the website.
      My main problem which I wanted to articulate through this post is people making a fuss about trivial things. A really beat up cover is a different thing, a slightly bent corner or a crack in the spine is different. The videos I watched, the booktubers showed the books in the video and they had to literally provide a close up of the damage, it was that small. One probably wouldn’t notice it at first glance. And still much was being said about them..
      The question here is how much is too much. How much damage is enough to actually react to it, and what damage is minor enough to overlook. I too don’t like my books to be overly damaged, but I wouldn’t mind small little things which aren’t even that noticeable unless looked closely.
      And as for Book Depository, I did not mean Book Depository in particular, I just used that website because that’s what the videos I watched were about.

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      1. Agreed. If you’re talking about a tiny bend in the cover, that’s disappointing but not a huge deal. It’s also possibly something that happened during shipping, which is not necessarily the store’s fault. (Though since I don’t use the Book Depository much myself, I’m not sure what they do for shipping materials. I’ve ordered used books from individual sellers on Amazon who sent them in envelopes or bags because it can be cheaper than a box. Which is fine, but then my mail carrier takes the liberty of literally bending the book in half to fit it in my mail box. -.-)

        If I had to show a close up of damage, I’d probably just let it go. If no one can even see it, then it’s really not ruining the look of your video or Instragram photo.

        My personal problem with the Book Depository was that the first book I received from them was quite noticeably damaged.

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        1. Yeah. I understand that. If your first experience with something is not so good, you would tend to look at it in not that nice a way. I don’t blame you for that. And yes, the main thing I wanted to say that yes, of its too small or minor a detail, it’s best not to draw it out into and issue. Also, Amazon sometimes does that for me too :/

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  6. Logically, everything you said makes sense. But emotionally, I can understand why people get upset. I never used to worry about what condition my books were in. Half of what I read I bought at used stores, so those were completely beat up from the moment I bought them. I also used to fold page corners and concern about creasing spines, etc. never even crossed my mind. But now, maybe because I don’t get to buy as many physical books, I do want them to be perfect. If I buy a physical book nowadays, it’s usually because I like both the story inside it *and* the cover, so I want the cover to look pristine and pretty and perfect! I want to be able to stare at it and appreciate it lol.

    I agree with Nicole though. If I really do want my book to be perfect, I’ll go get it at a store (if possible) because I know that you can’t guarantee perfect condition when books are shipped to you, and I probably wouldn’t rant online just because of a slightly bent corner or something.

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    1. Yeah, well I do get you. But maybe because you buy less books now, you’d want them to be in good condition? And yes definitely if you want a book in a good condition, it’s always safest to buy it from a bookstore.

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  7. I wholeheartedly agree! I sell used books for a living, and have found that most people don’t mind the “lived in” feeling in a good book. It not only adds to the experience, but if they accidentally mar the book themselves, they’re less likely to cry about it!

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