As I mentioned on the Twitter earlier this week, thanks to my local library, I am finally getting to handle one of those expensive Absolute DC editions, in this case Batman: The Long Halloween, and this thing in drop-dead gorgeous. Huge, at almost 13 x 9 and two inches thick, and the printing is flawless, the art running all the way to the edge of the page. The Absolutes seem to run anywhere from $75-$100 when new, which means I am likely never ever going to own one, but damn. If you’re going to lay down a number of Franklins to own a book, it should look this good.
So it sort of saddens me to see this noble beast the worse for wear. Way back when, after I had finished carving up the brontosaurus for the evening meal, I could look in the back of a library book, at the card in the little manila pocket glued to the back cover, a card bearing the due date, and see how many people had checked out the book. Or at least how many had on that particular card – who knew how many cards had been used in that book, but had run out of room and had to be replaced?
In the current modern of the library, that’s not possible – it’s all RFID chips and black magic. That’s a fabulous leap forward and I love it. I love being able to step up to a self check-out kiosk and be on my way in seconds. But it also means I have to ponder how many people have handled a book, without the possibility of ever knowing the answer.
The Long Halloween‘s very size works against it. The other great books currently in my loving care, a couple of the Fantagraphic’s E.C Segar’s Popeye, have a similar problem: at a daunting 14 1/2 x 10 inches, they’re an odd, ungainly size, and their once sharp corners are now blunted and bent. The spines are similarly cracked, and wobble slightly as the book is opened. Again, the modern library has to take a little of the blame for this; self check-in is the norm, with the patron depositing the books one-by-one through a night deposit-style chute. I can only assume there is scanner similar to the one at the self check-out, reading the RFID chip and amending the database. It’s convenient and fast, and once again, I love it… but it’s got to be rough on big books like these, especially when it’s repeated over and over again.
There’s really no point to complaining about this; the wear and tear on library books is entropy at work, an unavoidable fact of life, and the alternative – no lending libraries at all – is unthinkable. I’m considering mending the one torn page I’ve found thus far in Long Halloween, as even my usual fumble-thumbed attempt at repair will be better than the sure loss of that page at some point.
Added bonus: checking Amazon for the dimensions of the Popeye books finds them to be surprisingly affordable. Now if I could just get family and friends to start looking at that darned wish list…