’ve always said that I like books as presents. If there is something you’ve read that you really enjoyed and you’ll think I’ll enjoy it, by all means, send it. Why people don’t give books more as Christmas presents, I’ll never know (well, I do – most people haven’t read a book since high school yet have watched all the Marvel action movies).
Interesting thing I noticed, though. Just got a book for my birthday from my best friend, titled Algorithms to Live By. It’s an interesting study he enjoyed and so he told Amazon (that magic genie of wish fulfillment and bookstore obliteration) to send me a copy. Inside the cover, he had a nice paper-slip typed note wishing me well and hoping I’d enjoy the book.
So, yes, I am reading it and enjoying it. And yes, it will probably find a place on my shelf. But it’s missing that personalized touch. While lots of time was saved in driving to the store, buying it, then going to the post office to ship it, the downside is that he never got to sign it. I don’t have his written wishes inside the flap, just a fortune-cookieish note slipped into the cover, best wishes and all that. So what should I do? Tape the typed note into my cover? Just leave it in there and risk losing it? Keep it? Toss it?
I’ve got books that I have gotten signed. And I’ve bought used books with echoes of well-wishes – to’s and from’s and lost good will, still boldly inked inside the cover. I like that. It’s personalized. And if Amazon is scanning such postings as mine for ideas, maybe they’ll think of a way to allow users to hand-write a personalized cover-dash which would possibly be stamped in some way inside the jacket. But even that’s not the same. The pen’s kiss is missing.
At my many bookshows, I signed a hundred or more Early Retyrements, offering all sorts of witty wishes for unknown readers, or just signing my book – personalizing it – with a wild Raymondish John Handcock. That’s what makes a book stand out. Maybe it will never be read again, maybe it will stay on the corner of a shelf until cleaned out and dumpstered by an estate sale group. But still, it’s in there. I’ve even got an old buddy who wants to drop by work so I can sign a copy of my book for his son in time for Christmas. I’m delighted to do this, not for the buck or two I’ll make on the sale (the balance of the deal, of course, to Amazon) but because I’ll be a part of this memory.
I even just got my copy of The End from Jurassic Publishers (who are going out of business) – the cover contains a collection of author’s signatures, a private greeting from them to me. And I love it all the more for that.
So, yes, in this high-speed world of e-reading and next-day-delivery, it’s nice to have something that was placed on paper, from someone who likes you, a greeting, well-wish or even an epitaph that will last the years.
I just like old stuff like this. Nothing more.