I swear, I don’t know how it happens. I move somewhere new. I say to myself:
“I shall save money, and I shall save space. I shall not bring many books with me, because they are heavy and it costs money/effort to move them. I will not buy new books because they cost money, and when I move again…see above.”
Well. Cue book bargains. Cue textbooks. Cue books “relevant to my studies”. Cue “Ooh, that looks interesting!”. Before I know it, my bookshelf is full. Full. I swear to you, I don’t mean for it to happen. But it does. Every time! I think I have an addiction…
And does China know how to feed me addiction! Everyone has that shop where they become a regular, and a sort of bond emerges between customer and proprietor. For me, it’s the book cart guy. Yes, I know I’m a horrible pirate, buying these illegitimate, cheaply copied books, but who can resist purchasing entire current A Song of Ice and Fire series for 80RMB (£8, 12USD)?!? That’s five 700-800 page books for the price of one. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t stay away. I stopped by so often, the guy started knocking down the price for me without me even having to bargain! He sells English best-sellers in addition to Chinese titles, so while his selection is not as diverse as a bookshop, he always has the hottest, freshest books.
So when I saw that the Hunger Games movie was being released in China, I made sure to ask my book guy when the books would hit the market. The movie poster had provided me with the title in Chinese, making this conversation flow very easily. His eyes lit up and he said, “In the next couple of days!” And lo and behold, approximately a week later, the little trilogy sat upon his cart, all neatly wrapped and tied with a bow (to keep them together, not because he gift-wrapped it for his favourite customer, despite how much I would love to illustrate this experience with a romantic little coincidence). I quoted 30RMB, he quoted 40RMB, saying this is already a good price, he’d only be making 7RMB on the deal. I agreed, after all, I’m starting to feel quite fondly towards the guy. But to my surprise, in the end he knocked 5RMB off the price. Thence we parted, both smiling. I used my 5RMB to buy a Taiwanese-style milk-tea which I drank outside the café as I cracked open the first book.
I won’t be able to take them back to Manchester with me; my baggage weight allowance is only 30kg. But this time I don’t feel bad leaving the books behind: firstly, they didn’t cost a fortune; secondly, I’m leaving them with a friend, giving them the chance to be read and experienced a second time, in full. And last and best of all, I get to start a new collection when I get back to Manchester!
The perennial book collector…