Whenever I ordered books from abebooks.com, the first listings I'd usually see for any book, were "ex-library" copies. I avoided this because despite them being listed as "Good," I couldn't be certain of exactly what was contained within that condition. Was a page or two stained? Were there markings through and through to the detriment of trying to read the book? I don't mind a tear or two if it doesn't interrupt the book, but what kind of guarantee was I getting by "good"?
Now, having stopped buying books for a long while because I'd like to maintain some semblance of a savings account, upon reflection, I wonder why I didn't go for library books more often, especially in light of receiving today Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master by Michael Sragow. This particular hardcover edition, sold by Better World Books in Mishawka, Indiana (http://www.betterworldbooks.com/; though I always order from abebooks.com), comes from the Lisle Library District in Lisle, Illinois, with the book jacket tightly preserved in plastic, as is the standard with good libraries. And on the inside flap, under the plastic covering, there was a checkout receipt for this book, checked out on "March 03, 2009 8:38:15 PM," as indicated on the receipt, with a due date of "3/24/2009".
On the dedication page, written in pencil is the Dewey Decimal number for the book, and on the far left side of the page, written vertically in pencil as well is "1/16/09," likely when this book was entered into the Lisle Library District. So now it's October 2011. And on the very back blank page, there is a red stamp of "WITHDRAWN" on it. Perhaps this wasn't a book for the district. Maybe patrons were more inclined to check out books about actors than about 1930s directors like Victor Fleming, famous for The Wizard of Oz and for directing Gone with the Wind for a time until he left for The Wizard of Oz. That kind of directorial switch fascinates me.
Two things motivated me to buy this book, besides not having a steady library right now, which would save me money certainly, but I'm not going to wait to read: One, out of all personalities in Hollywood history, I'm most interested in directors. I wrote about actors in What If They Lived?, but I like knowing about the directorial power on the set, the quirks, the artistic beliefs, the drive. The same kind of thing stands with my equal passion for learning about the presidents and the Supreme Court. I've never thought about it at length, but perhaps it stems from being curious about how power affects a person, how they use it, whether executive power, judicial power, or power on a movie set.
The second reason is for my preliminary research for my 1930s Hollywood history book. I want to see how other authors cover the period, what they focus on in writing about their subjects, such as Sragow about Fleming, Scott Eyman about Louis B. Mayer, and other authors' books I have about the studio system itself. I seek tour guides to show me how they've covered the period so I can determine where I want to go, though undeterred by what's been covered before.
I love how this book jacket's been preserved in plastic, how clean this book looks and feels. That's of course because it's still relatively new, not having been touched or handled all that much, but it's still remarkable to me. What's even more amazing is that I looked at the inside jacket flap and the list price for this book is $40. I got it from Better World Books for $5.25, free shipping. 645 pages for $5.25. I always take pleasure in such bargains. Saves me a hell of a lot of money and there is potentially great value in the reading to come.