Charles Petzold on writing books, reading books, and exercising the internal UTM

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To Hobart Book Village (and Beyond)

June 17, 2009
Roscoe, N.Y.

Deirdre and I are spending the summer at our little house in the Catskills, and it's mostly quite pleasant except for the stuff we take for granted in New York City, like plenty of bookstores and even a place (J&R) that still sells classical CDs. In Sullivan County, there's only one store that sells new books (Hamish & Henry, which has become the center of the Sullivan County literary establishment) and — as far as we know — only one store that sells used books (a literacy center in Monticello).

But just over the northern county line is Delaware County, and there the bookstore situation is quite different. In fact, there's a little village called Hobart, seemingly a normal quiet community of just 390 people (as of the 2000 census), but with a shocking public display of four used-book stores and a couple others nearby. They call it Hobart Book Village, and it's a wonderfully strange anachronism is this age of disappearing stores where you can actually touch the books and flip through the pages before you buy them.

Today, Deirdre and I went on a used-book buying spree to quench our book-buying deprived souls. Our first stop was Delhi, New York, a charming little village with a Wednesday morning Farmer's Market and Steinway Book Company. Very neat, very clean, certainly not crowded. (These are not necessarily good qualities for a used-book store.) The store seemed strong in American history, the Civil War, and had a surprising large science section, but overall there was little depth. I left with one purchase:

Hobart is about 17 miles from Delhi. Our first stop was 698 Main Street, which houses two of Hobart's four used-book stores. Enter the front door and veer to the left for Blenheim Hill Books, with a nice selection on European history with a surprising number of books on the Middle Ages, and in the science section, a peculiarly large number of books by James Jeans. I picked up:

In the same building is Liberty Rock Books, which has good collections of history, poetry, and literary criticism, a bunch of children's books, and hundreds of postcards of New York State arranged by town. This was one of those stores where the more you looked, the more interesting books you found. I came away with:

We had lunch at the only dining establish in Hobart (The Coffee Pot) and then went across the street to Wm. H. Adams Antiquarian Books, which is a real antiquarian book shop, which means that most of the stock was way out of my price range. I drooled a great deal over a beautiful leather-bound 12-volume set of the works of T. H. Huxley, but the $850 price tag meant that it remained behind.

Across the street is Hobart International Bookport, which sounds rather pretentious until you realize that it does have quite a few books in foreign languages with a particular emphasis on Italian. The regular fiction section was quite adequate as well. Purchases here were:

All five of these stores — one in Delhi and four in Hobart — have addresses on Main Street, which in the context of these villages is the same as Route 10. Off the beaten track — indeed, almost as hard to find as a trendy New York City night spot — is the famous Bibliobarn in South Kortright. This place is totally old school — sprawling, over-stuffed, a veritable orgy of books on two massive floors, presided over by the ex-Virginians and (one would surmise) lifetime hippies, H.L. and Linda Wilson. This is one of those stores you can visit again and again, and never really make a dent. Be sure to check out the second floor bathroom, where they shelf books that don't fit into any normal category.

My arms were filled when I left Bibliobarn. I purchased:

It was nearly time for dinner when we drove back to the house, the back of the car dragging on the pavement loaded down with actual books made of paper, ink, glue, and other good stuff.


You bought used books? You? You do know the author doesn't get royalties when you buy a used book, don't you?


"I left with one purchase:

The Journal of Irreproducible Results: Selected Papers (3rd edition, 1986) for $6."

If I predict that you won't be able to leave the Steinway Book Company with that exact same purchase a second time, do I win an igNobel prize?


"a real antiquarian book shop, which means that most of the stock was way out of my price range."

A real antiquarian book shop ought to have some books on Win32 programming. If I can imagine an affordable one, do I win a second igNobel prize?

— Shokt N. A. Paul, Wed, 17 Jun 2009 22:54:36 -0400 (EDT)

There is a long tradition of selling and buying used books, and as an author, I don't have a problem with it. Certainly it's a little tacky when online sellers like Amazon offer used copies of books along with new copies, but it's not something that really bothers me. I try to buy a new copy whenever a book is still in-print — and I think you'll find that very many of the books I purchased yesterday are out-of-print — but it's OK by me when people buying used copies of my in-print books.

It's called "recycling" and it's nowhere close to digital piracy. — Charles

Am I alone when I just cannot get along with idea of complete digital reading, I mean how can one get the gratification without physically turning the pages , not having fragrance of paper. The only reason I ever buy a digital book is when I am looking for some Technical book which I new will bear no value after couple of years (e.g COM+).

I think it make sense to read news online , and dont get news paper , but how can you read book digitally its beyond me.


— RbR, Fri, 26 Jun 2009 18:33:58 -0400 (EDT)

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