Prospero's Books, a used book store with a staff of two in Kansas City, has hit on book burning as a marketing device. They give a high-minded goal, according owner Tom Wayne on KCTV Channel 5: "We hope to spark a conversation about the importance of books in the face of a marked shrinking in reading trends, and staggering waste streams of actual books." But the motive is to move an unwanted inventory of 20,000 volumes, as the store website admits.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before the uproars over desecrating scriptures--and the secular equivalent, abhorrence to burning any book--would be seized on as a marketing gimmick. The Rag & Bone Blog wonders "Is this such a bad thing?" Prospero's notes that books are routinely thrown away by the thousands by bookstores and libraries, not to mention the rest of us.
Prospero's is, of course, playing on the iconic status of books, which distinguishes them from most other disposable commodities. I wonder, though, if their campaign doesn't do more to show just how disposable books are than to motivate people to save them.
Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)