Friday, September 23, 2016

Moments of memory

That's the basic difference between price and value: one is calculated in dollars, the other in moments of memory.
Wendy Welch, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap

When buying or selling homes, cars, toys, furniture or almost any kind of physical object, price and value can potentially come into conflict. The price we are willing to pay or accept as payment may depend upon the value we place on the object because of what Wendy Welch calls "moments of memory." Objects associated in our minds with good memories have more value to us. To buy them, we are willing to pay a higher price. To sell them, we may demand a higher price.

Welch is specifically talking about books. As the owner of a small used bookstore, she recognizes that persons thinking of selling books to create more space in their homes may find it difficult to part with certain books because of the memories attached to them, while customers seeking to replace books they loved in their youth may be willing to pay more than the books are actually worth.

Most of us who have books have at least some of them chiefly because of the memories attached them. They may be worthless in the marketplace, and we may never want to read them again. Yet they are priceless to us, or at least those "moments of memory" are priceless.

I still have a vocabulary book I spent hours with as a child. It shows pictures of ordinary objects with the appropriate word under each. I don't know whether my lifelong interest in words stemmed from that book or whether my interest in that book stemmed from some innate love for words. In any case, that is one of my priceless books.

Another is The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Lawrence Beall Smith. How I loved that book. Today I can't see it on the shelf without sweet memories being triggered.

I also have a battered paperback copy of the 1960 World Almanac that I shall never surrender. Today the fine print in that 896-page book is difficult for me to read, but in high school I loved opening it to a random page to see what bits of information I could discover. Let's try it now: "The National Geographic Society, Washington 6, D.C., was organized in 1888 'for the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge.'" And again: "A Knot is a measure of speed, one knot being a speed of one nautical mile an hour." This book cost $1.35, and I never felt that I needed another, newer edition.

Look through your own library. You will likely find books that have great value to you and books you might sell for a good price. Chances are they will not be the same books.

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