Are you a book hoarder, like me? Do you own more books than any single human being could possibly read in one lifetime? Do you surround yourself with stacks and piles as if you were trying to build a fort in your office or bedroom? Do you read in bed, even after you fall asleep, dreaming that you’re reading in bed? Do you like the musty smell of books that were printed many years before you were even born? Do you SMELL like those very same books yourself? Do you get a thrill when the spine of book crackles for the very first time — a sense of excitement at all that promise, but also at the same time a very guilty frisson that you might just have ruined the book somehow? Do you find yourself using words and phrases like “TBR pile” more often than the common man? Do you eschew “book trading” sites because you can’t let go? Do you own multiple copies of the same book, because you firmly believe that one copy “reads better” than the other? Do you borrow books and never return them (sometimes because you really really really want to finish reading them some day; sometimes because you’ve lost track of them in the infinite recesses of your personal library)? Do you love to shop at bookstores, always at bookstores — and when you find yourself elsewhere, do you go hunting for books? Do you wear gloves when you read some books, afraid of soiling the pages? Do you have any books bound in anything other than hard cardboard, like, say, pure silver or lizardskin? Do you buy books that you can’t read, because they’re in a foreign language, but you must have them anyway? When you’re in a furniture show room do you often fawn over the fake books that they have out on the tables and lined up pertly on the shelving? Do you go to thrift stores like Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul, to load up on the unbelievable throwaways of other people? Do you get envious when walking inside a public library? Do you go straight to the Bargain Bin at every other used bookstore and blow your entire paycheck because you got such a great deal? Do you troll amazon.com and ebay.com and half.com, looking for steals, only to pay billions in postage just to acquire them so cheaply? Do you have pet books that you treat like ancient relgious relics, wrapped in plastic or secreted away in a stash that no human hands will ever touch? Do you buy books ABOUT books? Are you still reading this, simply because it’s describing your obsession, even though, really, you’d rather be flipping through the pages of a book?
If so, then maybe you need help. Nah…you just need an outlet for your compulsion. So get yourself a subscription to Library Thing already. I joined up earlier this year — you can freely visit my profile if you wish — and while I’ve only scratched the surface of what it is they have to offer, I geniunely love what they’re up to at this site.
LibraryThing is basically a database, like a virtual card catalogue for your own collection. You can use it to organize your library and also share it with others online. You can browse libraries of strangers (for a voyeuristic thrill) or search the book collections of special interest groups and even “regular” libraries online. But best of all you can chat with others about all things bookish, finding a network of chatter surrounding any given title in your library — and if chatter doesn’t exist yet, you can strike up a conversation or post a review.
It’s like myspace.com for bookworms. Only better. You might discover your favorite writer there, sharing their research or favorite texts as an “lt author.” I think it’s really cool to have discovered like-minded folks on the site — I even found out that my editor at Raw Dog Screaming Press has a page there, and that we happen to share many of the same books in our collections…it’s uncanny that we have such similar literary tastes. I also think it’s really cool to click on a link that takes me to a page of photos of all the writers in my book collection (…man, some of those writers are more freaky-looking than I ever imagined.)
If you’ve got the booklust, allow me to be your enabler. You can join LibraryThing for free, but you’re library is limited to a certain number (a generous 200) book titles. After that, you have to pay a reasonable fee. I ponied up for the lifetime membership right away (cheap at $25). This post wasn’t intended to be a sales pitch, but I might as well let you know: I still have a few “one year free” subscriptions to LibraryThing (a $10 value) to giveaway to subscribers to my author newsletter, The Goreletter. Drop by my website at gorelets.com and sign up to claim your yearlong addiction enabler before I run out of memberships to giveaway.
Guest blogger Michael A. Arnzen is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the flash fiction collection, 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories, and the novel, Play Dead. His most recent project is a spoken word cd called Audiovile. A collection of his best fiction and poetry to date — called Proverbs for Monsters — is due soon from Dark Regions Press. You can find out more about him by subscribing to his award-winning newsletter at gorelets.com.