Are books substitutable?
June 24, 2014 | 2:25 pm
By Joanna Cabot
Kaetrin at Dear Author poses an interesting question: are books substitutable? She discusses the example of a patron searching for a book to read at the library. Absent a special circumstance (such as a new release by a favourite author) would one do as well as any other?
Kaetrin’s conclusion—which I agree with, but for different reasons than she does, is yes. While she does ascribe a higher value to books she truly loves, she doesn’t know that such books will have that value until she’s read them already. So, at the browsing stage, they really are all truly equal to her.
I agree—but for me, it’s more an issue of quantity. I read so many books that new releases from a favourite author account for only a tiny fraction—maybe five or six books out of 100 over the course of the year. So, the rest of the time, I am reading books I just happen to find out there—Kindle daily deals, subjects I am suddenly interested in, and yes, whatever happens to pop up at the library.
If I read fewer books, it might be a different situation. The Beloved, in response to my more prolific consumption, has joked with me that he will read NO books this year, and be proud of that (he does read a lot of other non-book content). And then his favourite podcast personality came out with a new book, and he folded and came to me to say he wanted it. This book is going to be his only book of the year. He has carefully chosen it—this one specific book—and no other book will do. So in his case, books are not substitutable.
But for me? Meh. If I am in the mood for genre mystery, I won’t go off and choose a romance novel. But once I start trolling for genre mystery, I can be just as happy with any number of them. As Kaetrin says, the true valuation comes after you’ve read it, when you know whether this is a book that will last the ages for you.