Global Book Glut

Text by Claire Baiz

I couldn’t bear to carry our Encyclopedia Britannica to the dumpster. I made my husband do it.

We waited for a sunny Saturday to shlep four cardboard boxes to a flat spot beside our stinky, shoulder-high garbage bin. Every few hours, I peeked through a hole in our fence to see if they were still there.

Tom and I are downsizing. We figured it was a longshot, that someone would troll our alley for obsolete leather-bound reference books. We were desperate.

I had higher hopes for our bestsellers, how-to’s, biographies, even a few choice first editions. We’d given away nearly fifty novels—with Snickers and Reese’s—at our front door on Halloween. That left fourteen boxes of soon-to-be homeless books.

“I’m sorry. I already have too many,” the young owner of Great Falls’ Cassiopeia Books Andrew Guschausky, made his used book department sound like an orphanage. “I don’t have room right now.”

I tracked down the American Association of University Women. Surely they’d want our collection for their annual autumn book sale. They’d be happy to take them…come June.

I posted my downsizing problem on Facebook: New York Times bestselling author Jamie Ford came to the rescue, offering to store our books in his basement until the AAUW could adopt them out.

Many books aren’t so lucky.Two friends admitted waiting for cover of darkness to haul their deceased parent’s paperbacks to (neighbor’s) garbage cans. Borders/Waldenbooks, when they went belly-up in 2010, filled dumpsters with “unsold inventory.” Libraries make hard choices that involve space, time and money.

I’ll never get used to it: there’s something tragic, something frightening about destroying BOOKS—unless they’re textbooks that suck the joy out of learning.

As the world’s literate citizens convert to digital formats, you might think our mountain of trashed trees is destined to become a molehill. You’d be wrong.

Forest industry statistics indicate “global paper consumption will continue to grow.” The planet’s prime paper-eater? Packaging. The satisfaction of well-crafted stories is being replaced by the joy of slitting open cardboard boxes at our doorsteps.

I wax nostalgic for the college history seminar where Roger Snow handed out uncaptioned daguerrotypes of a soldier on horseback. The assignment was to find the name—of the horse. This generation’s reference skills consist of clicking on Google or Wikipedia.

If some terrorist organization knocked out our Internet, we’d be dumb, and dangerous and probably doomed.

There is a glimmer of hope: someone rescued our boxes of Britannicas. Please. Don’t suggest they needed kindling…


• Great Falls Public Library will accept some books. Guidelines are posted on their webpage,
• Thanks to a grant from Neighborworks, our public library has ‘Little Free Libraries’ in several city parks.
• The Cascade County Detention Facility accepts paperbacks only. Call Commander O’Fallon for details, 454-6820.
• Soldiers appreciate books!
• Several thrift stores in town accept used books in good condition. Call first.