A few years ago a friend added me to the mailing list of a British publication that lists books (not ebooks) that are available at a reduced price. The masthead proudly proclaims that it is ‘Britain’s Best Postal Book Bargains.’ And at the side is the royal crest that bears the legend ‘By Appointment To H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh Booksellers London.’
The publication consists of over thirty closely-printed pages, with each page containing summaries of the various books offered, often accompanied by a colour photo of the cover. The prices are often very tempting. To take just one example, chosen at random, the paperback version of book (no. 88201) ‘Forget the Anorak: What Trainspotting Was Really Like,’ by Michael Harvey was 9.99 pounds sterling but is now reduced to 5 pounds. Of course, to that has to be added the cost of package and posting, but anyone ordering several books can thereby reduce that expense.
Just imagine, a newspaper lands in your mailbox, each of its thirty-six pages summarizes an average of fifteen books, so that you are offered a wide range of reading options in fields that vary from Biography to Art and Home Entertainment (they include CDs and greeting cards too), with every genre in between. In addition, you have the added satisfaction of knowing that H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh may be reading the very same books, or at least the Bibliophile summary of them (though I doubt he does much reading these days).
And so, on a monthly basis over the course of several years I have been able to enjoy summaries of an almost endless supply of books. In the past I have indeed ordered some books from there, but the attraction of printed accounts of books has been overshadowed by the almost infinite supply of books provided on-line by Amazon. And so there goes another industry swallowed up and destroyed by the internet.
Interspersed among the book summaries are little snippets of quotes, in italics, that remind the reader of the joys of reading. “Hell, it is well known, has no fury like a woman who wants her tea and can’t get it,” is from the almost unending store of bons mots taken from the works of P.G. Wodehouse. In the History section we find the following quote from John Maynard Keynes: “Ideas shape the course of history.” And there are many more, too numerous to give here.
Sadly, I feel that the days of Bibliophile are numbered. Admittedly, there are still those among us who prefer to read a printed page rather than peruse a computer screen, or worse still, a mobile phone screen, but they are getting ever fewer.
Because I have sought to market the books I write via various internet bookselling sites, I am bombarded on a daily basis by lists of books on offer, both in paper and in electronic form, which may be ordered or downloaded either gratis or for a very small fee. And of course, one can always go onto the Amazon site and look for books to buy or download, either according to subject or author or genre, or anything one wants.
The whole world is out there on the internet, so there is no need to restrict oneself just to the few hundreds of books offered by Bibliophile to its readers. But the focus of the Bibliophile readership appears to be on books published in England, either recently or in the past, and I still enjoy reading the well-written summaries. It’s almost as if I’ve read the actual book, so that I come away feeling that I’ve achieved something by devoting an hour or two to its pages.
Once again, we are forced to opine: sic transit gloria mundi.