Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why our books are shrink-wrapped

Philippine bookstores have this practice of shrink-wrapping their books in stock. If you've been hanging out at bookstores since you've learned how to read, then I'm assuming that, like me, you have a love-hate relationship with shrink wrap. The plastic gets in the way of browsing the book's contents. Most of the time, we're just left with reading the synopsis at the back cover, which is usually filled with misleading and overused blurbs -- "Thrilling!" "The best of the year!" "This book will change your life!" "A gripping page-turner!" Such gibberish really. One of the blurbs for Jose Carlos Somoza's novel Zig Zag cried out: "It's the most intelligent thriller I've read." Intelligent is the last word to describe Zig Zag; it's overconfident, inane, and stupid.

Anyway, back to the shrink wrap. People have become more adventurous with their book browsing techniques. We've learned that removing the shrink wrap to sample the pages is perfectly acceptable. In Powerbooks, if you're still hesitant to remove the plastic, tell the book specialists that you'd like to read the book and they'll unwrap it for you. (The title "book specialist" is a stretch, but I'll discuss it in a future post.) In A Different Bookstore, the guys working there would even tell you that you can remove the plastic if you want to browse the books. The only bookstore that seems to frown upon people taking out the shrink wrap is National Bookstore. Still, you can always go to a secluded corner and quickly take out the wrap. I've done this many times and have never been caught.

If I do decide to get the book, I'd return the opened copy to the shelf and get a new one that still has shrink wrap. I like my books in pristine condition, and the shrink wrap somehow guarantees this. (Oh, the hypocrisy of it all!) Having a browser's copy was standard in our local bookstores before; now, I think it's only Bestsellers that does this. Fully Booked does not even wrap their books in plastic anymore. I think they should. You see, there are practical advantages to shrink wrapping.

Light is not friendly to books. Books placed near sunlight tend to have yellowish pages quickly. The shrink wrap somehow prevents this. Also, our bookstores are not kept airconditioned 24 hours. When they close, so does their airconditioning, locking in moisture and heat inside the store. Shrink wrapping books is a good idea if bookstores don't clean their bookshelves often. Lots of books at Fully Booked shouldn't be sold at full prices because of the hardened grime at the bottom of the books. No self-respecting booklover would ever think of getting those; we want our books to get dirty on OUR shelves.

Sadly, the shrink wrap's effectiveness ends when we get home and unwrap the books we've bought. Unless you keep your books in an airconditioned room 24/7, you know how the Philippine climate practically kills our books. It only takes a few years before pages start turning yellowish. And have you noticed how pages curl when it rains? C'est terrible!


Rhett said...

True story. This happened to me while attempting to open a shrink wrapped book at National Bookstore.

Sales Lady: "Bawal po buksan yung plastic"
Me: "Eh, paano ko malalaman kung maganda 'tong book?"
SL: "i-kuwento ko na lang po sa inyo"
Me: *stunned silence*