July 29, 2010


Monday, I went to the Mall on an errand. As I walked back to my car, I noticed a sign in the Dollar Store window that read: “Martha Grimes and other books for $1.00.”

As I am a Grimes fan, I hurried in on impulse. In the corner several works were on display but no mysteries. I’m not surprised. Grimes is a popular writer and I’d no idea how long the offer had been advertised. The rest of the titles on display were of modest appeal, and I saw nothing I couldn’t resist. I came home in a wistful mood, thinking about all those books that had been published with high hopes and were now practically being given away.

Occasionally, I visit the Dollar Store to purchase bulk items for a song, but I hadn’t expected to find hardbacks there. Their presence among the cleaning solvents and corn chips and hand lotions posed a question. What happens to them if they remain unsold? Is there a graveyard for books like there is for people and elephants? Obviously, they don’t fade away like General Douglas MacArthur’s old soldiers. 

I took my ruminations a step further and asked how I would feel if I found one of my novels languishing at the Dollar store. I’d probably buy them up and take them home to give to friends instead of birthday or holiday greeting cards. Come to think of it, my Dollar Store books would be cheaper than a Hallmark card.

An unwanted book makes me sad — not as sad as the thought of abandoned dogs or cats left at the animal shelter – but sad nonetheless. A book deserves a reader. That’s why they were created. That’s why trees were cut down. If they aren’t read, then what’s the point of it all?  

I’m reminded again of the argument for print on demand publishing. Every book finds a home, more trees are preserved and landfills are conserved. When I think of it, that’s a better bargain than buying a book for a dollar.