Why secondhand books rule

I’m currently reading Negroponte’s Being Digital. It was in my haul from the Mysterious Benefactor.

One of the joys of reading a book after someone else is seeing annotations. The past reader of this particular book marked the odd paragraph, placed neat ticks besides some sections. Delightfully, neat print proclaims “Not true” besides a claim that digital books are ever-present and will never go out of print.

I took great pleasure in a physical discovery, a bookmark in the second half of the volume. It’s from the Shaman Drum bookshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a part of the world I have never visited. Apparently, they specialise in academic, scholarly and literary titles. This leaves me with a lovely (and probably wildly inaccurate!) mental image of the bookstore, plus a wondering about what other books this bookmark has seen.

These little things — annotations, scuff marks, tatty forgotten bookmarks — all serve as reminders that we are not solitary readers, lonely as we approach this text, but travellers upon a shared path.


7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pete on June 29, 2011 at 21:32

    I have rarely found such traces in paper books. Usually just a name or library stamp or scribbled 2nd-hand-shop price on the endpapers, if anything. Interestingly though, I find their equivalents all the time in Kindle books, which share others readers’ underlining with my copy.


  2. The judicious use of Google Maps and Street View gives you an undated picture of the bookshop. Now the question arises: is it better to preserve the imagined image or confront reality? 🙂


  3. Yes, usually books are unmarked, and I tend not to mark books myself. Yet I rejoice in finding such footprints! That’s cool about Kindle books… not an area I have experienced as yet.

    I did decide not to seek the shop out online to preserve the imagined image… but I am curious! Meanwhile, though, Mark Bernstein reported on Twitter that the shop is now closed 😦 http://annarborchronicle.com/2009/06/09/shaman-drum-bookshop-to-close-june-30/


  4. The Wayback Machine allows you to see the bookshop’s site as it was:




  5. are such things kind of like hypertext?


  6. I reckon so! Well, it depends how you define hypertext, but certainly I felt fuzzily linked with a community of unseen readers as a result.


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