Book Burning

In my own experience, most people do not destroy books, but will pass unwanted books on to someone else and that to destroy a book is unthinkable.

Which leads me to the questions:

Why is destroying a book apparently taboo?
Has anyone here ever destroyed a book and why?

I read a newspaper article a while ago by someone whose name I’ve forgotten who works for a publisher. One of the jobs she had was to dispose of unwanted books and she described the qualms she had when they were being destroyed. I can’t quite remember but I think she said they burned them; you’d think they could recycle the paper.

I assume that the “taboo” goes back to times when books were more precious than they are now and the contents could be lost forever by destroying a few copies. Now that books are mostly easily available and well archived in libraries, worrying about destroying them, apart I suppose from symbolic acts like burning them in public, seems like sentimentality. Having said that, it does seem wasteful to destroy a book when someone else might be able to get something out of it. I’ve only disposed of mine by giving them away. I wonder what charity shops do with their excess books?

Of course, millions of books are destroyed every day which are unsold copies. I believe they end up in all sorts of processes, including motorway surfacing, believe it or not.

I do think it’s wrong to destroy out-of-print or rare books, and especially to withdraw them from public libraries where they might be the only accessible copy for the public in a certain area.

I used to visit an excellent public library where they had lots of rare books, particularly out-of-print full scores, such as the original edition of Petrushka and Walton’s Viola Concerto. I went back there a few years ago and all the music library had been cleared away to make space for internet terminals for teenagers to play with.

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2 Responses to “Book Burning”

  1. I cringe at the thought of any book being burned, but that is most likely from my romantic notion of books. It would be better, in my humble opinion, if excess books were donated instead of incinerated.

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