The pen is mightier than lighter fluid.

A Kansas City bookseller has made the news over the past weekend for burning portions of his unsold inventory in “protest of what he sees as society’s diminishing support for the printed word.” He might have noted that this event has also showcased society’s willingness to hand out free publicity on a holiday weekend. Whether philatelists bemoaning the rise of e-mail plan to follow suit remains to be seen.

It’s a rather poorly kept secret that booksellers long have sent unsaleable inventory into the dumpster or set it out among the other desperate cases in those cartons marked “FREE” by the doors of a shop. Those boxes of free stuff or the paperback priced at a quarter a title? They have not been discarded for eleemosynary purposes but rather because space on the shelves is at a premium. (Once again, the scope of one’s inventory is shaped by questions of real estate.)

Happily, though, reports have reached my ear that the works of Bulwer Lytton enjoy a certain popularity among those whose reading material is fished from the junk heap.

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