All other things being equal–do you prefer used books? Or new books? (The physical speciman, that is, not the title.) Does your preference differentiate between a standard kind of used book, and a pristine, leather-bound copy?
This is a hard question because I love both for different reasons. New books are very special indeed. There is something wonderful about cracking open a book that is brand new and breaking the binding in.
However, I do love used books. There are stories attached to them. Meta-stories, if you will. For example, the book I just finished reading, Angle of Repose was purchased used at Powells. I’d been grinding my way, very slowly, through that book since November. When I was about three quarters of the way through it I found a receipt (what is it with me and receipts?). At first I thought it was mine but I looked more closely at it. It was somebody else’s. The date was earlier in 2010, sometime in March I think. And there was another book purchased with it. Damn. Now I wish I had saved it so I could look at what the other book was (because there’s another detail to the story). But I remember looking at this receipt and creating a story around it. It was purchased by someone else at Powells mere months before I bought it. It was in almost brand new condition so I doubt this person read it. So what was it doing back on the Powell’s shelf in November when I bought it?
See how that works? there is a story there. Used books have all kinds of them. My favorite used books are the ones that belonged to my Granny Mary. I inherited a few of them when she died. They are leather bound and are classics. On of them is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It has her writing scribbled in the margins. I surmise from these scribbles that she acted in the play at one time in her life and these were her notes. I love that. It makes me feel closer to her.