Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Paper Metamorphoses

Considering how little effort I've really invested, I'm irrationally proud of myself at this moment.

Three weekends ago, I invested six dollars into buying two paper grocery sacks at my nearest public library, and then snatched up any book, CD, audiobook, and the like that looked even the slightest bit interesting or useful and packed it away into these sacks as neatly as possible. The various used book stores and pawn/secondhand media shops around here are so variable in what they want that this approach will usually yield more in returns.

This weekend, after sorting through all of the media I had sitting in the bags (and around - one bag ripped open and sent a pile of paperbacks sliding across the floor), I finally started feeding the books I was not 110% sure I wanted to keep or give as they were to family and friends into the different secondhand stores around the two cities Big State U occupies.

This is always an interesting time of year for me, and certainly the time when I get the most exercise hauling around several cubic feet of printed matter in grocery sacks as I attempt to spread out that volume of books, CDs, audio tapes, and the like to maximize the returns. I never know exactly what's going to come out of hauling around all of the printed material, although I'm pretty sure of these possibilities:

1) More books - fewer than I started with, but definitely of better quality, since they aren't just what initially looked good when I scooped them up during a bag sale.

1A) Store credit at the places I bring the books to - this is always a gamble, since the used book stores aren't always stocked with what you're looking for, but it usually pays off.

2) Money - never as much as I expect, but more than enough to recoup the initial investment. Hey, even if it's just some quarters, money is money.

2A) This was an unexpected side effect, since one of my roommates wanted several books of a particular type but couldn't go to the sale. She asked me to pick up one or two of the books and promised to reimburse me. I've had books turn into dollar bills after I feed them through this whole process, but I've never before had them turn into ears of corn to pay the remaining debt.

3) There are just some things that nobody will take, for whatever reason - it's too old, nobody wants it (often the case with video game cheat books), or it's just too commonly available or otherwise undesirable (which is why I avoid picking up romance novels during the initial scoop the way you'd avoid touching someone who had the plague). Those remainders usually get dumped at the nearest library with a donations box or a secondhand store (which means some of the books I've been sorting might have already been through the process two or three times).

Yeah, it takes some work. But I've already made about twice my initial investment in credit at just one store, and gotten back half the money I spent in both cash and food just from doing my roommate a favor. And I've gotten plenty of exercise walking or riding my bike with the first load of books to each of the local stores, which is a heck of a lot better than paying to go to a gym.

Who says you can't see this sort of transformation of books into food, money, a healthier body, or new books right before your eyes? Now, if I could just do the same with loud neighbors (but what would you sell them for? Alarm systems? Pest scaring devices?), I'd make a mint and get two more hours of sleep a night.

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