It used to be that books were burnt and destroyed because of heretical, unrepentant, malicious and political content. Book burning images remind us of the Nazi regime, Pol Pot’s agragrian dystopia in Cambodia, Iran and the Kurdish presses in the 1940s or Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution.

Image from Lauren Mitchell Nahas

The act is a suppression of ideas and freedom. It not only exterminate these ideas, but the author himself.  Horrific and barbaric is what it is. (Check this: A timeline of 2,200 years of book burnings, from ancient China to The Book of Negroes)

Haig Bosmaijan who wrote “Burning Books”writes:

“The horrific history of exterminating books, sometimes exterminating the authors at the same time, is as much a part of current history as it was of earlier times. Century after century, the book burners have lit the fearful, powerful, magical fire to reduce to ashes the fearful, powerful, magical books.”

But it still exists today. In the large-scale, industry-wide business of books and libraries.

How do you think libraries dispose tens of thousands of old and least-borrowed books? Someone (who book lovers want to gut or skewer or burn) goes around the stacks (or the card catalogue) to check books that can be thrown away.

Space is limited. And new books are released weekly, if not daily. Every publisher is trying digital. This is the reality of libraries which no one really dares to notice: book population explosion and how libraries curb it.

S Peter Davis, whose job was to destroy library books writes in

“Industrial-scale book destruction is going on at the British Library, possibly the most prestigious library in the world (you can tell because it’s British). Recent book-pulping scandals have hit the University of New South Wales in Australia, as well as several other institutions. Hell, when Borders bookstores went belly-up earlier this year, they decided to destroy all the unsold books instead of donate them.”

So who decides? And what will the world least likely miss? Davis tells us more about what we need to know about large-scale book culling:

6) A library near you is doing it right now – That’s right. Check the paragraph above about the British Library and University of New South Wales Australia.

5) It’s cheaper than giving them away – Why not give the books to the poor? The problem is that a library book is stamped and bugged and cataloged so that the library knows that it belongs to them. When a book is given away or sold, the library has to go through and remove all that crap, so whoever winds up with it can prove they didn’t just steal it off the shelf.

4) It has to be done in secret –  Your library won’t announce they’re doing it, but you can find message boards with librarians discussing it in private.

3) The economy is killing the library – While you may think of the library as shelf after shelf of beloved old works of literature, the most important function (and often biggest cost) of a library is maintaining active subscriptions to dozens or hundreds of journals that students and academics use for research.

2) Libraries can’t grow fast enough – The library is assaulted on both ends — by the demand that they grow to accommodate all the new books, and also to provide a space for everyone to order a cappuccino and put their feet up.

1) The books are going digital – Let’s face it, books are going out of vogue anyway. In the last three months of 2010, e-books began to outsell paper books on Amazon.

He adds: “But that’s the real world for you — it runs on a train made of money, on tracks made of paperwork and fueled by bureaucracy. And I’m sure that, when we finally get around to knocking down the pyramids, it’ll be based on sound, pragmatic economic advice.”


Scary? Wrong? Acceptable? We let you decide.


Read more here.