Binning the proofs?

It could be that the story wasn’t even true. I’m the kind of person who believes, or wants to believe, what reliable newspapers report. I’m fairly sure I have mentioned this snippet before, and therefore I am as guilty as anyone of spreading what might not actually be true.

But it stops me from throwing away books. Every time.

It’s the brief tale of a poor young woman somewhere in Africa. Her most treasured possession was a portion of a paperback novel. Not even a whole book. After I’d read about her I wanted to get on the first plane and hand over a suitcase full of books.

What to do with very early proofs? Whether I read them or not, assuming I do the reading nice and soon after receiving them, doesn’t matter. If I don’t feel I can keep them, I can’t pass them on either. I will always honour a publication date.

I recall the pain I felt when seeing loads of – unread and pristine – proofs chucked in the bin in a bookshop. My reaction to those books in what has to be a very wrong place, was to rescue them. But I realised I couldn’t, and shouldn’t.

Maybe proofs are always meant to be thrown away. Pulped. If I keep mine, I suppose it’s all right. Pass them on, though? The opposite of the bookshop bin was Offspring’s school library. There we entered even proofs into the library system. After all, it saved the school the cost of a book, and provided young readers with yet another tempting novel.

I don’t know what’s right. As with so many other situations, I would guess there is a legal right, and then a moral one.

And the young woman in Africa.

3 responses to “Binning the proofs?

  1. I’ve had the same problem. Occasionally, once the publication date is past, I gather up an armful and offer them to writer friends, safe in the knowledge that they will honour the spirit of proof-ness. After all, writers need to read up on the latest themes and trends, but can’t keep buying, and libraries can’t always provide. And if I receive a splendid, not-a-proof hardback I don’t want to keep, the library happily accepts it. But mostly books, whatever their state, just crowd onto the shelves in the study, especially if it’s a series and I may want to reread before the next book’s review.
    I hate the thought of pulping something that has given me such pleasure.

  2. Recycling is not quite the same as throwing away though.And the person with half a paperback (I hope she has a library of her own now) it the literary equivalent of ‘eat everything on your plate there are children starving’. Which helps no one. Whereas donating them after publication date to Save the Children just might. They took a car boot load off me last week. My local library, when I offered the entire Guardian Award longlist turned them down on the basis that if they took them they would have to catalogue them, which made me want to howl a bit, I admit.

    I myself have a similar problem with letters. Handwritten letters from friends, with lovely postcards attached. Files and files from children. Very hard to part with.

  3. Only yesterday Daughter asked if she needs to keep all the cards I send her. I said no.

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