Thursday, February 24, 2005

Doing it Buy the Book. (God, I love puns.)

They've put a Borders right by where I'm working (Columbus Circle.) I've been on a Vonnegut kick lately, so I decided to pick up a new paperback to read on the subway.

~Note~ "Why don't I just go to the library, when it's right around the corner from my apartment?" I hear you cry. Because the Queens Public Library sucks hamster testicles. It's set up like a bookstore- you have a romance section, a sci-fi section, a western section… etc. Their sci-fi section consists only of the same crap you usually find in a mall bookstore these days- Star Trek and D&D Serials. I've read my share, but a library is where you're supposed to be able to find the REAL sci-fi- the stuff they don't make anymore. Masters like Ray Bradbury, Alfred Bester, Harlan Ellison, Robert Sheckley… The fiction section is like an airport bookstore: Danielle Steel, Michael Crichton, Stephen King… you get the picture. (Not that I don't like Michael Crichton & Stephen King… well, the old Stephen King, anyway. Back when he was on coke.) Besides Slaughterhouse 5 for the required reading of high schoolers, the library is sans-Vonnegut.

ANYHOO… Borders has a large selection of both sci-fi and Vonnegut books. Unfortunately, all the Vonnegut books were trade paperbacks. For those of you who don't know, a trade paperback is a paperback that is printed on larger paper than a regular paperback, and costs twice as much. Almost all the paperbacks in this Borders are trade paperbacks. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to pay $15 for a paperback. A paperback should not cost almost as much as a DVD.

I remember when I was a Waldenbooks manager. This was in the mid-nineties when they began phasing the damn things in. Customers would ask me why they should buy a trade paperback when they were twice the price of a regular paperback. I would just shrug, unable to give them some line of bullshit. I resisted the urge to say, "Because the publishing companies realize that you want to buy something cheap, so they're working to replace what you buy with something twice the price. They're giving you something of equal worth, (the book's not any longer, is it?) but charge you twice as much because the pages are a few square inches larger. This is the same rationalizing that restaurants use to get you to pay $10 for fifty cents worth of spaghetti: they give you twice as much as you can possibly eat, and charge you much more than what it's worth for the excess. Don't even get me started on the popcorn-soda situation at the movie theater."

Fortunately, I found a good-old-fashioned, $7.99 paperback in sci-fi, a collection of Alfred Bester short stories called Redemolished. There's nothing like reading the masters.



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