May 25, 2010

Timelessness and Books

Walking through the local book fair, last weekend, I couldn't shake off the eerie feeling that in a few decades time this might be considered an antique market. EBooks (electronic books) are catching on in a lot of environments and are proving to be remarkably accessible and convenient. Already my eBook collection surpasses the physical one without affecting the number of boxes I store in the garage.

I also felt the quantity of people visiting the fair to be less than in previous years, perhaps that's why the organisers raised the prices of the items. I can't really imagine inflation to be a factor when dealing with old books.

My usual brief is to head straight for the Computers/Technical books section and pick up relevant copies of editions that are not obsoletely old, then head over to the science fiction area and see if anything catches my eye. After that it's a general stroll through the other sections.

In the fiction section I used to pick up a lot of Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlam's quick read books, but finally time has caught up with them. The stories are based in, and dealing with, the Cold War - the plot tries to reach the reader by making him worry about the US-Russian nuclear standoff and the great spy games being played across the geopolitical chessboard. I used to really enjoy these tales, but the end of the Cold War was has cooled my enthusiasm. There were boxes and boxes of such paperback novels, lying untouched, unbrowsed. Time has passed these tales by and they, along with their authors, may be forgotten. Some, like the Robert Ludlam's Jason Bourne series have been adapted into movies with story-lines mutated into a more modern context, having little reference to the Cold War or the original story.

A generation ago, the same thing had happened to World War II tales, with comics like 'Commando', and during/post-war Nazi conspiracy fiction.

The quick rate of environmental change is reducing the shelf-life of cultural expressions even further. Is there anything that would make a book truly timeless?

Shown below is my part of the haul this time. We took a half-empty box of only select books to the pricing counter, where they pointed out that a whole box is equal to a half box in price. We promptly went back for another round and managed to stuff a large box with extra books that were previously secondary considerations. This time, the heavy box shook the pricing counter.

book covers

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