The pandemic has brought a change in the used book business: less income from the sale of books but an avalanche of book donations. We never had book donations in 1983. A recent donation of remarkable (eclectic) diversity brought me face to face with a philosophical question. Which is better? To receive books that are so loved and used (they may be soiled, dog-eared, underlined, and full of marginalia), that you breathe a sigh of admiration. (“Wow, people really do still love their books!”) Or does it make you happier to take in books that are pristine, probably never opened. (“What a great book this is…why did they never read it?”) Obviously, from a purely mercenary point of view, the second example will support your business while the first example will be a book for the “free” box.

Examples: three pristine, three blemished or tattered (but loved to death)

Here’s how to preserve a book with no marginalia for the next person:

  1. Take a junk mail envelope
  2. Make notes on the envelope
  3. Write the page numbers of the salient quotes you want to remember along with top, middle, bottom (T, M, B)
  4. Forget to write the title of the book
  5. Lose the envelope
  6. See? No messed up book


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