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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sticky Situations

Why do publishers and retailers find it necessary to place stickers on every book? Stickers that say this book won the Most Unknown Award, or was autographed by the fact-checker, or is marked 30% off the original outrageous price, or is part of the general stock in an independent-crushing Big Box store. Sometimes there will be a sticker with a scannable bar code placed over the scannable bar code printed on the book. Move further down the retail chain and books can be found with price stickers from ticketing hand guns slapped all over, sometimes on the flyleaf as well as the cover, just in case some bored housewife tries to switch tickets. Of course, librarians with unlimited budgets have all kinds of stickers to apply to the inside and outside of every item in their collection. They also must have stock in 3M, because they like to use an abundance of tape as well, to make sure a curious ten-year-old doesn't take the dust jacket off The Borrowers and put it over Lady Chatterly's Lover, because children don't need to learn about sexual relations, they need to learn how to deal with those tiny people that live in their walls and steal their homework. When colleges buy back your $90 hardly used textbook for $5, and then offer it to a new crop of poor students the next semester for $45, they like to apply to the spine a pesky little sticker that identifies the volume as used. We might even go so far as to question Aunt Henna's need to apply her flowery feline bookplates to every volume that passes through her hands on the chance that all those Victoria Holts and Phyllis Whitneys associated with her might have a premium value for collectors. Or Uncle Randle's joy in licking and sticking his address plate on the flyleaf of all his books, so if one ever wanders away and doesn't have cab fare home, some good Samaritan can just drop it in any mail box and it will be delivered back to its worried owner.

Do you get the feeling we don't like things stuck on books?

Cliff Janeway, John Dunning's Bookman, tells us what is commonly known as lighter fluid works great at removing stickiness, dries fast, and leaves no residue or stain. He also warns that it can be soaked through the skin into the bloodstream, so if you have clogged arteries, it will slick those cells right up and get everything flowing freely again. We have a gum eraser, which works well on some types of paper, and not so well on others. Fingernails can be employed, though they can leave incriminating indentations or scuffs. The sticker disease is so widespread and debilitating that we know people who specialise in their removal, and will do that work for others at quite special prices.

The stickers printed with the book information and a scannable bar code usually cooperate when it comes time for removal. Others cling to the book like snot on a sleeve; one needs a sand blaster to get them off. Still others refuse to go without taking part of the dust jacket or leaf with them. In such a case, what is one to do, leave the offensive leech attached, or forcibly remove it and endure the stigma of a permanent scar? When one is peeling back a certain sticker slowly but surely, hope of success mounting with each second, and then suddenly the dust jacket tears: that is sticker shock.

Today we call for an end to all stickers on books, which are nothing more than the literary equivalent to grafitti. Stop the madness. Do it for the children. Peel off those stickers and send them back to the publisher or retailer: tell them to stick it. Or get your Congressman involved, asking him to do something about this terrible crime against readers. And why not demand reparations as well? A class-action lawsuit might not be out of order. Failing all that, do unto others as they have done unto you: start putting Dr. Suess "I Love Reading!" stickers on all forms of payment when purchasing any book.


  1. SO, SO, SO true I'm laughing outloud but irritated inside. I HATE the stickers. I loathe the stickers. It drives me batty.

    Especially the barcode over the barcode. What IS that about?

    I'm so glad to know I'm not alone. Always makes the misery more fun!

  2. I hate the stickers too! I was in a chain bookstore last weekend browsing the bargain books and there were lots of books with the bargain sticker placed on top of the title. I asked what that was all about and was told that they are required to put all stickers on the bottom right-hand corner of the cover regardless of whether is covering up the title. My response of "well that's just stupid" didn't go over very well.

  3. Goo Gone is slightly less toxic than lighter fluid, which I won't use. Stickers. I hate them.