Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Friday, May 16, 2003

"Books, be gone."

"Here you go. Ten, twenty, thirty, thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven. Thirty-seven cents. Thanks for selling your books back to the bookstore. Have a nice day."

Okay, so it wasn't quite that bad. But it was close. I've sold back three casebooks and a statutory supplement so far - over $200 in initial value - and received $37.50 from the bookstore. And in the fall, they'll get about a hundred and fifty bucks for 'em, for a tidy profit margin of 300%. They wouldn't even take back my Federal Rules of Civil Procedure book. They said there'll be a new edition in the fall. Like the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are really changing so much year after year that it's worth it. Sanctions for this, penalties for that, whatever. Like we're actual practicing lawyers who need to know the real rules or something.

I've heard two reasons from people as to why they don't sell their books back. The first is that a bookshelf full of law books looks really impressive. To who? Illiterate house guests? These must be the same people who tell their friends how much all of their clothing costs. "I paid four thousand dollars for this gold watch. It was on sale. It's really worth nine thousand dollars. And my socks are made of gold too." "Oh yeah? I got this watch in a McDonalds Happy Meal. And the closest I have to gold socks are Gold Toe. But they have holes in them." I don't want a bookshelf filled with books like "Property Law," "Criminal Procedure," and "2002 Uniform Commercial Code Annotated Special Edition." I don't think it's impressive, I think it's boring. If I walked into someone's house and saw all of those books, besides being concerned the shelves would collapse from the weight and fall on me, breaking my gold watch, I would think that person was dull and dreary. Like if they had "National Cactus Journal," and "Modern Fireplace" magazines on their coffee table. CVS had a magazine all about chandeliers last time I was in there buying some socks and a brand new watch. I think it was called "Chandelier Life," or something like that. Who's buying these things? Probably whoever's married to the lawyer who's got shelves full of "Tax Code, 2002."

The second reason I've heard as to why people keep their books is because they want them as reference materials. For the next time you're dying to know which justices concurred in the Upjohn case and can't remember your Lexis password. When am I ever going to need to be re-reading these cases? Will I be bored one day and yearning for a series of perplexing notes and questions to ponder over a cup of tea served in a three-hundred dollar tea cup while wearing my new gold cufflinks? Will I be desperate for a four-inch thick book to balance the leg of a severely unbalanced coffee table? Will I need a heavy object to throw at the intruder who has come to steal my fancy chandelier? Perhaps people think they can one day use their casebooks to teach their kids how to read. "Assumpsit, daddy. I think the word's assumpsit." When I was a kid I remember seeing a Supreme Court paper dolls book in a discount bookstore. All of the justices in their underwear, with paper clothes and paper robes to put on them. Just seeing it in the store scarred me for life. Someone really thought that Sandra Day O'Connor and William Rehnquist in their underwear made for an appropriate children's book.

Yeah, so I don't want my textbooks. And the bookstore apparently doesn't either, or not much, anyway. My plan after my exam in International Environmental Law was actually to sell the book back on my way to my room after the test. In my own head I thought that would be making a very subtle statement about how valuable the book is to me. "I don't even want you coming back into my room now that you've outlived your usefulness. I'm done with you, you, you stupid casebook!"

True story - a guy in front of me in line at the bookstore when I was selling back books tried to return a study guide, still in its original shrink wrap. Still in its original shrink wrap. "I got it for the wrong casebook. I just want to exchange it for a different one." "No. No returns on study guides." "But it's still in the shrink wrap. You can just put it back on the shelf." "Not like that I can't." 'Not like what?" "No returns. No exchanges." "But it's in the shrink wrap." "No."

What are they, book nazis? It's in shrink wrap. Unless the bookstore is also selling do-it-yourself shrink-wrap machines (mine's made of gold and cost me three zillion dollars), he couldn't have photocopied it or done whatever else they think we do with study guides that makes them unreturnable (the pornographic treatises and hornbooks, I kind of understand why they're unreturnable...).

So take my books from me, evil bookstore. Turn my dollars into casebooks into pennies. Impoverish me so that you can continue to earn monopoly profits, and double the price of umbrellas whenever it's raining (you didn't think anyone noticed, did you?). Lure me in with your promises of cash back. Where's my cash back, law school bookstore? It's certainly not in my used books....