Like many teenagers, I went through a brief shoplifting phase, pilfering a Maybelline Kissing Potion, a pack of Adams Sour Apple Gum and, as my final heist, a Toffifay candy bar. But I never would’ve considered stealing a book. Books, I believed, were sacred.
Apparently, not everyone shares this idea. With the recession, shoplifting is on the rise, according to booksellers. At BookPeople in Austin, Tex., the rate of theft has increased to approximately one book per hour. I asked Steve Bercu, BookPeople’s owner, what the most frequently stolen title was.
“The Bible,” he said, without pausing.
Apparently the thieves have not yet read the “Thou shalt not steal” part — or maybe they believe that Bibles don’t need to be paid for. “Some people think the word of God should be free,” Bercu said. As it turns out, Bibles are snatched even at the Parable Christian Store in Springfield, Ore., the manager told me, despite the fact that if a person asks for a Bible, they’ll be given a copy without charge.
But this holiday season, the Good Book is hardly the only title in danger of being filched. At independent bookstores, thieves are as likely to be taking orders from Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book” as from Exodus.
Fiction is the most commonly poached genre at St. Mark’s Bookshop in the East Village of Manhattan; the titles that continually disappear are moved to the X-Case, safely ensconced behind the counter. This library of temptation includes books by Martin Amis, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo and Jack Kerouac, among others. Sometimes the staff isn’t sure whether an author is still popular to swipe until they return their books to the main floor. “Amis went out and came right back,” Michael Russo, the manager, told me.
At BookPeople in Austin, titles displayed with staff recommendation cards are a darling among thieves. “It’s so bad lately that I feel like our staff recommendation cards should read: ‘BookPeople Bookseller recommends that you steal ________.’ Apparently the criminal element in Austin shares our literary tastes, or are very prone to suggestion,” Elizabeth Jordan, the head book buyer, wrote in an e-mail message. READ MORE.....