August 23rd, 2009

The Book Vultures

There's a wonderful recycling center in El Cerrito, California. Residents and non-residents alike can go by seven days a week to drop off paper, glass, used motor oil, car batteries, videotapes, scrap metal, and other items for recycling. There's even a bin where you can drop off old reading glasses.

The thing I like about it, though, is that they have a book recycling center. There are several shelves and a couple bins of books. Anyone is welcome to drop books off, or browse the ones that are there and take anything they want. I've been purging books recently, and when I have a bunch ready to go I just take a couple of boxes up there and drop them off.

The weird thing about it, though, is that there are several book vultures who appear to be permanent fixtures. They hover around the book bins waiting for new prey. As soon as you put something in the bin, and sometimes even before, the vultures down on them, and pull out anything they're interested in. They seem to be on good terms with each other, because I've seen someone grab a book, look at it, and then hand it to one of the other guys.

My old Postscript programming books got grabbed immediately by a middle-aged Asian man. An older caucasian gentleman with a professorly beard grabbed Bill Maher's When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden, a book on TCP/IP network administration, two books of Oscar Wilde's stuff, Gullver's Travels, and several other things-- he had about a dozen of my books in his pile by the time I left.

I wonder what the vultures do with the books they grab. Read them? Sell them? Burn them for heat?