A Burning Passion for Books
Protest Attracts International Attenton (Thanks CNN & Stephen Colbert)
Q1: Why burn books?
A: As a cultural wake-up call.
Burning books is an inflammatory act. Books can contain our most sacred and valuable thoughts. But we risk a secular idolatry when we value the physical pages and continue to ignore the fact that fewer and fewer people are choosing to read what's contained on the pages.
The Nazi's burned books to keep people from readng them. Prospero's burned books to incite you to read - by not reading you are empowering the forces like the Nazis. It gives them exactly what they want, and without a fight.
A 2004 National Endowment of the Arts study indicates that less than 50% of Americans read even one book a year not required by work or school. This is down 20% in the last 2 decades, and these figures are now 5 years old. Combine this trend line with an industry waste stream that destroys hundreds of thousands of books each year, and we have an an opportunity to hold up the art/life mirror to our culture.
Q2: How many books were burnt?
A: Enough to get people's attention - a few dozen, maybe.
Q3: Is this just another publicity stunt to make money?
A: No. It was a way to start a national discussion about the importance of reading in our lives. If our primary goal was to make money, we would not be purveyors of gently used books. To be honest, the permits, storage, emails, posters, long-distance phone minutes, personal time, etc. have now cost us hundreds of dollars.
Q4: So why aren't you giving the books away?
A: We are a bookstore. How does a bookstore stay in business if it gives away its product inventory? And why single out bookstores - do you ask car dealerships, grocery stores, and manufacturers of various products to give away their merchandise because signifcant portions of the society do without their products?
That being said, Prospero's has and will continue to donate thousands of books to teachers, area nonprofits, jails, and those who simply can't afford the price of a used book.
We keep dozens of books on our outside racks overnight. A block away is a hospital. Many times family visiting releatives are unable to sleep and walk up our street to take a book. While not technically free, those in need are always welcome to grab something.
NOTE: we will not provide books to any organization that competes with independent book stores - independent bookstores are a noble breed and we heartily support and defend the work they do!
Q5: Anything else you were trying to accomplish?
A: The dirty secret in America is that behind nearly every bookstore and library is a green dumpster filled with books. And let's not forget the hundreds of thousands of new books, covers torn off, that are trashed by the publishing industry each year. We need YOU to do something, to help increase reading in your community
Q6: Will you burn more books?
A: There was a lot of public outrage when we first set match to page. But most people got it - even if it made them a little queasy. The long and the short is maybe - there'd have to be a reason, but most of the problems we were drawing attention to are still there.