Sunday, February 25, 2007

Black swans and other surprises

Check out Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution on whether your personal library should consist of mostly read or unread books. I like his conclusions, but would observe that the "New Books" shelf at my local public library is nothing like the "New Books" shelf at Barnes and Noble, in fact I always--though in general I'm averse to scare quotes--find myself thinking of the public library one as the "'New' Books" shelf, it is a real cheat. If I was a massive public benefactor I would give a gazillion dollars to the New York Public Library system & tell them it had to be spent exclusively on [a] extending the hours of the poorer local branches and [b] buying actual new books in large & alluring quantities, the fact is that we all know that new books are for the most part more alluring than oldish ones & I do not see how you are going to get, say, moderately well-off people in their twenties and thirties but without children ever setting foot in a public library if you do not have reasonable numbers of copies of the just-published books they actually want to read--and the loyalty of those people is what will lead to the donations that will make the system sustainable in its next period of life--a topic for another day....

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I am such an "unread." It's somewhat compulsive, yes, but my bookshelves are in my bedroom and I can promise you they are not designed to impress. If they are seen by others, I always quickly point out that only about 1/3 of them have been read. Though I do arrange the books into odd categories -- i.e., books on a highly visible shelf might be "proud I've read" while books on a lower shelf are "oh so embarrassing that I even own you." Obviously, I am somewhat obsessive-compulsive. But I do plan to read them all.... one day.