People think I love books. I do appreciate what is in some of them but with a few exceptions the physical book means little or nothing to me. You would call me a liar if you saw my book-laden dwelling place. I don’t love the things, though, I just don’t want to get rid of them because I may want to go back to facts, stories and beautiful ideas some of them contain.
Everyone does not understand that. One time when I was an academic dean at Southern Arkansas University, a well-tanned, outdoorsy type man with his hair slicked down sauntered into my office with a box of books under each arm. “Dean Ford?” he queried. “Yes, that’s me.”
“Sir, them people over there in that building yonder told me you knew everything there was to know about books. I acquired these books at an estate sale in Hot Springs. I was wanting you to tell me how much they are worth.”
“I’m sorry; I am not an expert on the value of books. I won’t be able to help you.”
“Well, them people over there said you was a real genius when it come to books and I was just wanting you to give me some ballpark figure as to the worth of these here books I acquired up yonder in Hot Springs.”
“The people in the administration building are mistaken. I do not know anything about the value of old books. I’m sorry.” Then the man put the boxes down on my desk and pulled a few copies out. Flakes of yellow paper flew and I could see that bugs had feasted on some of the volumes and that some had years-old mucus tracks decorating the cover. “Lookee here at these here ones I acquired up there in Hot Springs. They are over a hundred years old. Reckon what a feller could get for books like this. I ain’t going to tell you what I paid for them. I just want you to give me a figure so I can see if I come out alright on the deal.”
“Well, I, I, I don’t have any way of knowing the value of those books. I doubt that they have much value, since the authors are not major names.”
“Well, Dean Ford, if you yourself was going to buy these here books I acquired up there in Hot Springs, how much would you give me for them.”
“Nothing. I do not want the books. As you see, I have plenty of books. Perhaps you could take them over to the library—that building right over there. Ask for Mr._____________, the head librarian. He may be able to give you some estimate of their worth.”
The persistent acquirer of books finally left and soon I got a call from Mr._____________ at the library. I cannot write here what he said to me. Suffice it to say that he did not wish to acquire the books for the library. Especially since he adjudged them worthless. I found myself using the word “acquire” a lot the rest of the day.