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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Conversation With a Book Thief

posted by on March 5 at 15:42 PM


I got a lot of responses to last week’s books lead, about shoplifters. The most interesting one, though, was from an actual book shoplifter. Here’s the (sic throughout) text:

Paul Constant, In your article “Flying off the Shelves” you demonized book thieves and talked about their “underground economy”. Well, I am a major book thief; only I confine myself to the big guys, Barnes and Noble, Boarders, and occasionally the UW Bookstore. I’ve never lifted anything from an independent shop. Also, I never steal for profit. Instead I am the type who steals books because I am poor and I like to read. Anyway, the point is, you did not give us “to poor to buy book thieves” a fair shake, and there are a significant group of us who simply steal for the pleasure of the read. It’s a hard job to do simply for pleasure and getting harder. Barnes and Noble does not even keep Bukowski on the shelf anymore, you have to ask the clerk to get it from the back before you run out the door with it. And yes, I’m fast, and have quite the collection but I don’t think that my actions are exactly wrong, not super great but certainly far from the Beelzebub’s work. After all, I’m not masturbating in the children’s section. [Name Withheld]

I responded with a question, something I’ve always wondered:

Why don’t you use the library?

The response was:


Good Question. Ever try to find Bukowski at the library? The wait list is not short for the most part. The other thing is I, and I’m assuming others, want to keep the books. I think that often times people steal to complete their personal collection. Lastly, I could not steal from the library; it would be wrong to steal from such a good institution. I look at them like a friend of the community, and you don’t steal from your friends.

It was signed, “Peace.”

RSS icon Comments


If he just does it for the pleasure of reading, where does this pleasure of amassing a huge collection come into it? There goes one sociopathic motherfucker who needs to spend some time in the company of his peers. In a prison.

Seriously: what is it about Bukowski that attracts these doodlebugs so much? Is it the fantasy rebel aspect?

Posted by Fnarf | March 5, 2008 3:47 PM

does the thief read anyone besides bukowski?

Posted by stunk | March 5, 2008 3:48 PM

What a douche. Talk about moral relativity run amok.

"I'm poor so it's okay to steal shit" - no, it's not.

Posted by Hernandez | March 5, 2008 3:49 PM
“to poor to buy book thieves”

It's too poor. Too. Clinton is the new Nader.

Posted by Anon | March 5, 2008 3:51 PM

You want to keep the books you read? Then buy them, asshole. Just because you're stealing from "the big guys" doesn't make you any less of a prick.

Posted by */<* | March 5, 2008 3:51 PM

What a jerk.

Posted by Jason Josephes | March 5, 2008 3:55 PM

Mmmmmm. Troll? Troll.

The article even provides a prefab character sketch of the type of person Paul Constant hates. That's the thing about making a troll persona: 9 times out of 10, the biter actually does all the characterization work for you. You just toss off something the character would say and then stand back and enjoy the flamage.

Posted by elenchos | March 5, 2008 4:01 PM

That person isn't stealing books because they like reading them, they like STEALING them.

Posted by Dougsf | March 5, 2008 4:10 PM

So how is this different from tagging?

Both do bad things to other people because they think what they care about is more important than what anyone else cares about ... just like ECB does.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 5, 2008 4:12 PM

People like that don't deserve to read.

Posted by Aislinn | March 5, 2008 4:13 PM

Man, I don't know who's worse, bukowski or bukowski fans.

Posted by don't break the oath | March 5, 2008 4:19 PM

What a fucking loser.

Posted by Mr. Poe | March 5, 2008 4:20 PM

Hmmmm, GET A JOB! Hey I know, Get a job at a bookstore so you can have that nice lil discount. What an ass.

Posted by D | March 5, 2008 4:24 PM

What a fucktard.
And University Book Store is an independent bookstore.

Posted by the bloop | March 5, 2008 4:26 PM

Those of us who currently work at University Book Store got quite a kick out of seeing Dude follow "[I]occasionally [steal from] the UW Bookstore" with "I’ve never lifted anything from an independent shop."

Pruf that reeding lotz of buks wil maik yoo smarder, huh?

Posted by Book Store Boy | March 5, 2008 4:31 PM

I don't think this guy's bad, exactly, but he should be boiled with a little extra pepper and garlic powder just in case.

Posted by Greg | March 5, 2008 4:36 PM

What an asshole.

Posted by bma | March 5, 2008 4:38 PM

This person is so full of SH*T. I'd like to see Judge Judy deal with him. I've gone to my little local library and put in a book request to get books from other libraries if they are unavailable at my library. He doesn't have to steal. Grumble Grumble Grumble.

Posted by Mr.Designer | March 5, 2008 4:39 PM

Also, this person was stupid enough to write and say what he likes to steal. Hopefully he will be identified next time he tries to take his Bukowski book. (i never heard of this author, should I have?)

Posted by Mr.Designer | March 5, 2008 4:43 PM

Mr. Designer, sign up on the library waitlist for Bukowski.

I thought this was funny. It's a great example of someone justifying his annoying and immoral actions, and actually convincing himself that he's IN THE RIGHT about it.

Posted by Katelyn | March 5, 2008 4:50 PM

If you're poor and you steel food to survive, I can have a little sympathy.

If you're poor, and you steel books because you're too lazy to go on the wait list at the library, and/or you want to add to your private book collection, you're nothing but a self-indulgent asswipe.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | March 5, 2008 4:52 PM

Mad that we kicked you out when you came in just to use the bathroom to wash up, dude?

Or are you one of these people?

Posted by the shelver | March 5, 2008 4:55 PM

see, this is why I steal cars- I value the bus too much
(I see it as a friend of the community, and you don't steal from friends) to steal it when I need to take a joy ride. Plus it's so damn hard to parallel park them.

Posted by Phred Meijer | March 5, 2008 4:58 PM

Capitalism is a system built on absolute self-interest. Citizens of every class exploit or steel from others. Every big company cuts corners to steel wages out of the pockets of their workers. He’s just using his competitive advantage of being a good book thief with about as much CSR as he can muster. Fuck the big companies, they’ll be fine.

Posted by Gabe Global | March 5, 2008 5:00 PM

This is obviously a joke.

"You have to ask the clerk to get it from the back before you run out the door with it."

Nobody does this.

Posted by Jerod | March 5, 2008 5:01 PM

25, you obviously haven't worked in retail.

Posted by Mr.Designer | March 5, 2008 5:07 PM

Oh FFS. If you really read, you have 10-40 items on hold at the library at any given time - and when your precious Bukowski is in, you'll get it. Perhaps until then you can busy yourself with The Zen of Fish, Straw Dogs, or any of the other 60-80 books I have checked out over the last 9 months.

And when I just can't wait - as with the new William Gibson a few months - I shell out. At an independent bookstore. But I quit stealing books when I was 17.

Posted by rtm | March 5, 2008 5:28 PM

I think it's sweet he won't steal from the library. Everybody else sure does.

Posted by M | March 5, 2008 5:32 PM

A roommate of mine used to steal loads of books (he would fill up backpacks full of them) from the local chain book stores & sell them on Amazon. Considering how easy it is to steal them, you have to think that a large portion of the Amazon marketplace books sold are stolen.

Posted by Andrew | March 5, 2008 5:40 PM

Kind off topic, but my house was robbed and all our stuff ended up on Craigslist. I am very skeptical of Amazon, Craiglist, et al.

Posted by the bloop | March 5, 2008 5:44 PM

There is a terrific book about this very subject. One of the protagonists, a radical hiding out here, works in an independent book store. Everyone is stealing from them in 1999 too. It's called "Eat The Document" by Dana Spiotta. Lots of Seattle atmosphere.

Regarding Bukowski… "Post Office" is mind blowing. His exit interview after 14 years of working there is second only to Henry Miller's Demonic Telegraph Company riff. Hilarious and working class gold!

BTW... Bukowski always worked for a living... he didn't steal.

Posted by blanchard | March 5, 2008 6:26 PM

Ditto @3.

Sidebar: There's lots or Bukowski available at King County Library and I'd like to see why its worth stealing. Which book should I start with?

Posted by PA Native | March 5, 2008 7:21 PM

What an idiot, now every bookstore in town is going to go stick those metal alarm thingies in every Bukowski book they own.

Posted by whatanidiot | March 5, 2008 7:42 PM

"first comes the food, morals follow on."

Posted by peachum | March 5, 2008 7:52 PM

So, how many of the above commenters slamming the guy for stealing books have some mp3s or dvd rips or tv shows they've downloaded and never bought the actual cd/dvd? Hmmm? Not saying he's right, or the commenters are wrong, but I'd be willing to bet a healthy chunk of change more than half of the commenters on here have a few mp3s or other media that they never paid for.

Posted by curious | March 5, 2008 7:56 PM

Reading about this sort of thing really makes me want to steal a book. It's bad enough I have to pass by the book racks that are just sitting outside Borders where nobody would be able to catch me even if they wanted to.

Posted by Chris in Tampa | March 5, 2008 9:00 PM

Hmm, guess this means I can rip on him with impunity, because every single MP3 I have (and every movie) is a legal copy for which I own the CD (or is an actual DVD since I don't really need to mix a playlist of multiple movies).

All of my books are legal copies which I purchased myself using my own money, or was given them as a gift from family members.

I did once shoplift a can of cat food though... exigent circumstances involving one very hungry cat and being totally broke... and the recycling center was closed for a holiday or I'd of had enough money to get cat food to last to the next paycheck.

What this guy is doing is being a complete and total fuckwad... unless of course he's just a random troll, in which case what he's doing is being a jackass.

Posted by Geneva | March 5, 2008 9:54 PM

the only thing i ever stole was books...and a lot of them. i had to. i was po'. and voracious. and the library is germy.

Posted by adrian | March 5, 2008 10:12 PM

The wait list isn't short for Bukowski? Check again. Even last year's collection of new poems has a wait list of 0 at the moment.

Posted by Charity | March 6, 2008 12:50 AM

You're right Charity, the waiting list for Bukowski at SPL hardly exists. Not that I have anything against media thieves, but "long lines at the library" is a piss poor justification.

BTW, there are many good places to start w/Bukowski. He's a neglected treasure in this country. My recommendations:

Novel: "Post Office." Current library wait list: 0

Short Pieces: "Notes of a Dirty Old Man." Current wait list: 0

Poems: "Love is a Dog From Hell." Current wait list: 0

Posted by Gurldoggie | March 6, 2008 2:16 AM

Not to mention the fact that the library has annual book sales and many books go for 25 cents. Surely these guys can scrape together some change to not be assholes.

Also, Half Price Books. There are options.

Posted by Baxter | March 6, 2008 10:30 AM

Stupid fuck just gets off on stealing. I'm waitlisted at the library for a dozen books right now, and never ever get to read popular hardcovers when everyone else is talking about them, because I'm still waitlisted. But - that's my choice. I spend money. Could spend the money on the book, if I chose to.

Posted by Terry | March 6, 2008 10:53 AM
43, channel #bookz, has more scanned and proofed ebooks up for free than you can shake a stick at; we're talking hundreds of thousands, nearly everything you could want in raw text or html. Get a Nokia 770 and FBreader ($120 on ebay) and a memory card, and load it up. The 800x480 screen is a joy to use, and the device is smaller than a paperback. I carry my entire library in my pocket, and I love it.

In the event I can't find something on the net, hell, I live in PDX - all I have to do is go to Powell's and pay for it. It's like mp3s; I only ever steal digital copies of stuff i already own or wouldn't buy anyway.

Posted by STG | March 6, 2008 11:06 AM

I used to shoplift. And I used to rationalize.

Still, I knew I was wrong. As does this guy.

Posted by RDM | March 6, 2008 12:01 PM

Adrian! You have no fucking idea how germy the library is.... especially the Bukowski section.

Posted by M | March 6, 2008 12:55 PM

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