What We Throw Away, The Lit Edition

Glynn Marshes writes:

Observations by indie writer Dan Meadows, who regularly patronizes his library’s used book sales.

I find the post interesting not only because I watch the book industry, but also in terms of cultural anthropology in a broader sense.

My, what we can learn about ourselves by looking at what we throw away …

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9 Responses to What We Throw Away, The Lit Edition

  1. Seems like every library sale or Goodwill I’ve ever been to had the exact same stock, which this guy describes well.


  2. Glynn Marshes says:

    I thought you’d be interested in this 🙂

    I wonder if anyone has ever done a systematic study of the used book market…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Christine says:

    My building’s laundry room is the repository for books by residents who are too tired to cart their books to the local charity shops. It’s a good mix of travel guides, narrative non fiction, literary novels and thrillers, but if there are romance books, they probably get snatched up very quickly, as Dan Meadows observes. Self-published romance and erotica eBooks seem to have little trouble finding an audience. Harlequin tried to keep up with the demand, but some of the self-published writers they’ve taken on got impatient with their traditional publishing schedule.

    In Menlo Park, CA, during the 80s-90s, there was a 300 square foot used bookstore that specialized in romance paperbacks. My grandmother visited that place at least twice a week.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. agnostic says:

    On a similar note, the “Do not ever buy list” from a used record store:


    That’s the same stuff I see in thrift stores that never moves. There might be something like it for used book stores.


  5. agnostic says:

    The books that are still in demand offer fuller “immersive world” escapism. Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight, romance novels. They’re not just telling a story (perhaps not *even* telling a story), but creating a fantasy world that the reader can lose themselves in for awhile.

    The mass-market paperbacks and lit fic du jour are more circumscribed in the worlds they create. They’re almost entirely about narratives and character development.

    Once you know the who did what to whom information, it rarely needs to be read again — you remember it. Only if the narrative is really clever do you feel like seeing the plot points connected again. Ditto for character development — once you know how that person starts and turns out, you can simply remember it to relive it.

    Creating a sense of place or atmosphere, however corny it may be in the young adult novels, leads to repeated readings. It’s harder to recall sensory experience than it is to recall propositional information (who did what to whom, character traits at beginning, middle, and end). We feel like walking a trail time and again because just remembering it doesn’t do it for us.

    That extends into the movie medium, where repeat-viewing hits tend to have a very strong sense of place and atmosphere. Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien. They have page-turner narratives and stock characters (well written and well performed characters, but without very much change over the story). But the visual worlds they create are so new, rich, and distinctive, that we feel like watching them time and again, so that our sense memories of them do not fade.


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