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The kitty litter solution

September 3, 2014

Sounds like a Big Bang Theory episode title.

I once knew a guy whose wife would never, ever take a book out from the library.  The idea that multiple unknowns had touched the book before her utterly freaked her out, and so she spent money on buying books she ended up not enjoying–and many she did, but really, it could go either way.

I am incredibly cheap (having been a poor single parent for a long time), and I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of paying serious money for something that’s available for free or cheap.  For something you’re not even sure you’re going to like, let alone love.  I have a lot of books, but looking at my shelves I’d say maybe 10% tops were full-price.  And of that 10%, almost all were gifts or bought over the course of three decades of reading.  Most of the Jennifer Crusies were bought new.  Well.  Yeah, maybe. I won that one and my friend gave me those two, and that one was a library discard I picked up for $1, and some are originals, not reissues, which were found in book sales…but okay, so 50-60% of those were bought new, maybe.  And even then, I’m pretty sure Wild Ride or Maybe This Time were bought with gift cards, during times where they were 30% off.  That’s how I roll.

Using the library is likely better for the writer than buying used, though.  Some people think that all library books are donations, but they are wrong.  The library, even with bulk discounts, can end up paying more than you would on the cost of hardcovers.  (And don’t get me started on audiobooks.)  The number of times a book is taken out can determine whether the author’s next book will be ordered, and how many copies.  It’s not unusual for a library to order multiple copies of an upcoming work with lots of buzz, whether the author is James Patterson or a newbie, if the funds are available.  But if the funds aren’t available, they’re going by circulation numbers.  But you are definitely helping the writer when you’re taking those books out even if, yeah, people have touched the book before.

My friend’s wife’s problem with library books always comes to mind during the one time every year or three I come across a book that stinks.  The stink might be of animals (although I barely notice that anymore because of my cats; I’m mostly desensitized now), perfume, or–the worst for me–cigarette smoke.  I’m reading a wonderful book right now that I’m going through at about a rate of I-should-have-been-done-two-days-ago because I keep putting it down due to the reek of cigarettes.  I’m very sensitive to the smell because I grew up with a lot of smokers, and then got my own smoke-free place.  Suddenly, my nose smelled all the smoke I’d been used to living in, and it was disgusting to me as a lifelong non-smoker.  Now, I’m the one in my family who says “Ugh, the people in the car ahead of us are smoking” and my husband and daughter are like, “What?” and then, two minutes later, “Oh yeah.”

So I turned to the experts about my problem: two staff members at my local library, a librarian and a library aide.  Their solution?  Kitty litter.  Apparently, if you put a smelly book in a sealed container with kitty litter, the litter will absorb (most of) the smell.  They also said baking soda might do the trick.  I did get the impression, however, that they prefer this to be done with one’s own books, not library ones.  The best thing for me to do is to let them know when I return the book, and they’ll deal with it themselves.

My friend’s wife story does not have a happy ending, by the way.  She happily got a job at a bookstore–all the new books!–and quickly found out the real story of how many hands books go through before they reach the consumer.  She was, again, horrified.

I bet she buys ebooks now.


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