Thursday, 1 September 2016


Books to the left of me, and, ooh, books to the right of me. Or...to the left and right of this blog post, if you look carelessly.
   Those tomes are Folio Society books.

My umpty-year membership of the Folio Society is at an end.
   What happened?
   The internet happened. Passing trade passes on by in the digital age, if the august body's Palladian entrance is guarded by a three-headed watchdog.
   That is not a Harry Potter reference.

How did the weary traveller gain admission to the storied vaults? Through the purchase of four books a year, all at once, as the leaves on the trees yellowed and reddened by turn.
   Freebie volumes accompanied these luxurious purchases. Occasionally, trinkets were thrown in, too. I look at a bonus key fob, with FS on it.
   People will guess and call me Frank if I'm hit by a truck, when all they have to go on is the ID of a monogrammed fob.

In the end, the internet terminated membership. The reaper's scythe had a hand in that, it's true. It's possible that members who joined the Society in 1947 are still, barely, with the organisation.
   But membership, as annual concept, bit the dust. Why buy four books in a massive wedge of cash once a year, when I can buy at any time, day or night, across the internet?

Classics? As far as classics are concerned, it's possible to pick up freebies for the Amazon Kindle at any time, day or night, across the internet. A princely sum of nothing to you, squire. 

As I type, John Masefield is still in copyright and unlikely to be running wild and free on Kindle, though you can trawl Amazon for secondhand copies of The Midnight Folk at a penny plus postage.
   I pick up paperbacks for pennies, it's true. Online paperbacks? Cheaper than chips. Quality hardbacks? Online?
   Well, yes, I am staring at a secondhand Folio Society book for a penny and postage, but it seems to be at the lonely end of a long playing field.
   Online paperbacks and hardbacks, used: cheaper than chips. Quality hardbacks from the publisher, zero owners, maybe one careless postal worker involved in delivery: NOT cheap as chips.

There's crossover between those two distinct and wholly separate markets of secondhand and new, if the purchaser wishes to make that journey through the hole in the tall hedge of financial separation...
   In other words, I'll pay heavily for a durable copy of a classic book. That means picking up a paperback for pennies elsewhere, to fund the far more expensive purchase. Price of doing business.

That's neither here nor there. The main thing is, with an online shop guarded by the four-volumed dog of annual membership, visitors to the site came, they saw, and they went away.
   Annual membership discouraged the casual purchase. The birthday gift. That festive present. A reward for success in one of life's endeavours. Any reason for buying, including no real reason.
   And so. The ritual barrier to the one-off acquisition, the impulse purchase, is gone. No more annual membership. I didn't quit the Society. The Society rolled out the red carpet connecting to the internet, and swept membership under that red carpet.

I like hardback books, as they are durable. Yes, I do my bit to ensure that my paperbacks survive the reading of them. The pages on my e-books have yet to yellow and fade.
   If I'm to kill someone with a book, let it be a sturdy armoured hardback with the power to impede bullets.
   It's the 1st of September, and a few leaves on hasty trees are turning autumnal...
   Where are the books? Autumnal membership is gone. The books remain, for they are sturdy.
   Even in the digital age, even as a digital author, I find it easier to read paper. And I prefer to have my books survive casual or serious perusal. Many a paperback fell to the cobbles, from the guillotine of time.
   I keep writing no more books, no more shelves, and these are lies. Today...no more Folio Society membership. But there's still a website, and there are books to be had.
   Excuse me, while I peruse their new September collection...

The Folio Society.

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