Bibliophile vs. Bookworm

Old Books
Photo by Melodi2 via
The Bookworm

Bibliophile – from the french, meaning book lover; often a collector; someone who appreciates books for their content, their format, and the materials used in their production. A bibliophile may amass their own collection, or may simply prefer to admire the collections of others i.e. the special collections found in universities, or national libraries. References to book collecting date from the ancient Romans.

Bookworm – 1. an avid reader; someone primarily interested in the content of a book, who may or may not collect books. 2. the larva of a wood-boring beetle that feeds on the paper, and binding paste of books; silverfish. (Note: Mice also eat binding glue which explains why many bookstores house a resident cat.) 3. an electronic game similar to scrabble that will “feed your appetite for words.”

And, just to illustrate the issue – This iconic painting of a bibliophile by Carl Spitzweg is called “The Bookworm.”

Every Book Collector’s Battle

I’m sure you’ve guessed already, I collect books. And, I don’t mean just the books I search out for selling, I mean the books I buy for myself. My personal collection has outgrown the space I’ve allotted it, repeatedly, and I’m continually on the hunt for more shelves. I don’t know how it happens but, when the lights go out, somehow, those books just seem to multiply all by themselves.

Traditional bookshelves can often be expensive and, to be honest, a bit ordinary if you have as many as I do. So, lately, I’ve been on the hunt for alternatives, and courtesy of Google, I’ve discovered some amazing pieces of furniture created by some very talented people.

The secret to these pieces, though, is that they’ve been made from re-purposed items. In other words, other people’s junk, or trash has been reclaimed through curb-side shopping, dumpster diving, or scavenging. Admittedly, this isn’t for everyone, but with imagination, and a little bit of elbow grease, these discards can be given a second life. Transformed into unique, functional bookshelves, they can be tweaked to fit anyone’s decor. Take a look:

If you’re squeamish about the scavenging part, check out your nearest Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, or architectural clearinghouse. Set aside a Saturday morning, and head out on a treasure hunt. Google pipes, shutters, wood-framed windows, railings, or anything else you find; add ‘repurposed’ to the search, and you’ll discover endless ‘how-to’ instructions for almost any kind of shelving unit.  Good luck!

And the Winner is…

84 Charing Cross Road by Off the Quill Inc. Productions

Sandwiched in between the music and sound categories at this year’s Oscars’ ceremony were the awards for Best Short Films. The winner for Best Animated Short was The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. I’d never heard of any of the nominees, but the next day I googled the winning film to see if I could find out a little bit more.

Sure enough, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore has its own website and the 15 minute film was available for viewing on YouTube, and for purchase on Itunes.

Quoting their website:

“Inspired in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a… hybrid style of animation that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals. “Morris Lessmore” is old-fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.”

It is very good, well worth taking the time, and it’s just as heart-warming as their press suggests.

It reminded me of a few other movies I’ve seen made about books. 84, Charing Cross Road was based on one by Helene Hanff, which I absolutely loved. The movie was a little disappointing, as they often are. However, the book was also made into a stage play, which has gathered quite a following. A British fan has put together a website devoted to the books’ historical elements starting with its bookstore, Marks & Co. If you’ve read Hanff’s novel, 84, Charing Cross Road Revisited will put the story into context.

And, if you have children, you’ve probably seen The Pagemaster, with Macaulay Culkin, at least once. It was a favourite in my house for quite a while. Although panned by many of the critics, it encouraged my son to pick up a few of the classics, which was good enough for me!

There are many movies based on books, but movies about books are harder to come by. Which one of your favourites would you recommend?

There’s a Goldmine in Town

I live in Cut Knife, a small town of about 600 people in west central Saskatchewan. Stand alone bookstores are few, and far between, out here. We do have the occasional retail outlet, within driving distance, that sells books in, and amongst their other offerings, but for a whole variety of reasons, bricks and mortar bookstores all across the country have been on the decline.

So, what’s a bibliophile to do?  Well, the reading part is easy. We travel whatever distance we have to; we buy our books online, or we borrow. Still, that doesn’t replace all the other services a community bookstore will offer – like staff recommendations, or book launches, and author readings, or listings of literary award winners, etc. Fortunately, though, most rural areas have access to the next best thing: The Public Library.

I used my first library card, acquired way back in the 1960s, to borrow books, and books, alone. In fact, the only reason I went to the library was for books, and to access the encyclopedias for class reports. That was it. Today, though, libraries are the hubs of their communities. They’re filled with lending materials like books, and music, and movies, and have online services that include access to newspapers, encyclopedias, music downloads, foreign language and course modules. They also regularly host public events.

Our libraries are now home to holiday celebrations, guest lectures, and writers-in-residence programs; film showings and festivals; open mic nights, and storytelling concerts. They support literacy and ESL services, book clubs, and organize story times for children of all ages. So, whether you access your local branch, its regional hub, or every town’s library between the two, be sure to check their monthly calendars. There’s a wealth of regularly scheduled activities happening in most of them.

What is POD?

Moveable Type
Photo by dharder via

Publishing methods have changed dramatically since the days of record keeping on clay tablets in ancient Sumeria. Until the invention of the printing press, and movable type in the 15th century, original manuscripts, and later, copies of them, were written by hand. Materials consisted of papyrus, then, parchment or vellum and, eventually, paper. Their format evolved from scrolls into codices, which provided the basic structure for books as we know them, today.

Print shops began to appear in the 16th century. They sold printed editions of hand written classical and religious texts to the Church and the Aristocracy. By the end of the 19th century, reading materials were also in demand by the middle classes, prompted by public education, and the spread of literacy. The growth of the publishing industry kept pace with the public’s increased desire for books, and the existence of commercial publishers was well established by 1900.

During the 20th century, many smaller publishing houses were bought up by ever-larger ones and, increasingly, by global media empires. Now, profitability, not artistic merit, often determines an editor’s choice of manuscripts. Commercialization has forced publishers to make their decisions based on proven track records, or successful formulas. It’s often difficult for new authors, or fringe topics to find a place in the industry.

But, POD is a way of addressing those issues. Print-on-demand publishing is digital. It begins with a computer, and a digital version of the author’s manuscript. Formatting and graphics are added; copies are laser printed and the book is bound. No expensive printing presses, no publishers, no middlemen. Print runs are on-demand, and affordable; the books are sold by the author online, or at book-selling events.

For authors, a printed work can be the first step to building an audience. For consumers, an independently published book increases our choices, and allows us to access original work that may not fit within the boundaries of commercial literature. That can only be a good thing.

On the Lighter Side

Joy of Books video
From the Joy of Books video

Just for the fun of it, I’m posting two links to highlight the innovative side of bookselling.

This first video boggles my mind.  I can’t even begin to guess the amount of time it would have taken to sort and stack these books once this video had been filmed.  Even if it was shot in pieces over an extended period of time, can you imagine how much effort and care was involved in setting up each scene?  And, then, what if a second or, even, a third take was needed?  As much as I get a kick out of the video and appreciate the idea, I sure wouldn’t want to be on the crew.

Here’s Bookmans Does Book Dominoes:

This next video, The Joy of Books, is another amazing display of creativity.  Be sure to click on the Show More button under it to count the number of volunteers used to ‘move the books’ and don’t forget to listen to the original score:

Youtube is a breeding ground for the bizarre as well as the truly inspired.  It’s also a heck of a lot of fun.

Found: One Sheet of Portrait Photos

items found inside books
Just some of the items found inside books

I’ve been buying used books from secondhand bookstores most of my adult life. Occasionally, I’ll get the books home, then discover an old bookmark tucked inside, overlooked by the store’s purchasing staff. Sometimes, it’s just a receipt or a torn piece of paper; other times it’s a business card but, in most cases, the books are empty of anything belonging to the previous owner.

Now that I’m a bookseller, though, I’m buying much larger quantities of books and buying them much more regularly. I’m also starting to accumulate quite a collection of bookmarks. In addition to the glossy ones with inspirational sayings, there’s been a few from bookstores in other Canadian cities, one from as far away as Yellowknife, N.W.T. I’ve also come across the usual variety of paper scraps including old telephone messages, study notes and grocery lists. I’ve even found a photograph of the Eiffel Tower in autumn.

Photo sheet bookmark

Recently, I was cataloguing a book I’d picked up at the Cut Knife Library Book Sale. Underneath the dust jacket’s rear flap was a sheet of studio portraits. I have no idea how old they may be but, if anyone recognizes this child, please let the family know I have the photos because I’d love to be able to return them.

Just a reminder, folks, before you donate, lend, give away or sell your books, please take a quick peek inside and check for any stray bookmarks. Most of them wouldn’t be missed but, sometimes, there’s something irreplaceable inside.