I buy a lot of books. (Then I manage to read 0.8 for every one I buy, and the backlog grows; but that is a different matter.) A lot of my book-buying happens through the net, because the local shops don’t have the range I want. (Or if they have, it’s through their order service, and then we’re back in this realm.)
This means I buy books without being able to weigh and hold and examine them. This is not a problem for the interior pages, because Amazon allows you to peek inside most books. (And do I buy from Amazon — well, not terribly often.) It is a problem for the exterior, though — for the feel, the size, the thickness of the book.
I’m not talking about book fetishism, that perplexing attitude that ebooks are unworthy and foul because you can’t mercy kill a dog with one… wait, after that example both our trains of thought went into a black tunnel and didn’t come back, so to rephrase: I’m not talking about how it is nice that a book is a physical object; paper and the E are containers the same way a horse and a car are conveyers, both good for different purposes; I’m talking about how one wants to know in advance what kind of a container one is getting.
It would be really nice if there was a way to have pictures of a book other than the flat image of the cover; some database or the like which had a picture of the book from a side, showing the spine, the thickness, the general format and size of the book. (Maybe held by a hand with a ruler inked to the index finger?) On this, Google’s image search often fails to satisfy.
Then again, it is usually possible to find the cover dimensions, and the page count tells something of the thickness; but… but I’m lazy. Also a mathematician, and our inability to do anything with real actual numbers is legendary among us; we can derive a series representation for the pages-to-inches function in a heartbeat, but ask us how thick 300 pages is, really, and we merely do a barn owl, and then ask if the temperature function has achieved any extremals lately.
* * *
To do a barn owl — To stare, blankly and without any comprehension or clue, either absolutely flummoxed or then faced with an implicit, seemingly impossible and actually ludicrous challenge. To discover a yawning chasm betwixt the minds of men. To encounter an out-of-context problem. “Montezuma did a barn owl, and then decided this had to be the god Quetzalcoatl, come back to do legendary things and stuff.” Possibly also to conclude this with a 360-degree head spin (q.v.), then spreading one’s wings and flying away hooting to eat small rodents (q.v.).
To eat small rodents — To do things that one does not wish an audience for. Especially if one intends to do a barn owl (q.v.) if discovered. There are people who seem to eat small rodents all the time.
360-degree head spin —
(1) The Exorcist variety; also, “the vomit carousel”, “Linda Blair special” or “puberty hello”. An adverse reaction to priests, rabbis and/or clergymen. “PZ Myers came to the podium in the grip of a particularly violent 360-degree head spin, and said: ‘Actually, Reverend, I would like a register a complaint. Your God is an ex-God; he has ceased—‘”
(2) The pseudo-Monty Python variety. Something utterly unexpected, unexplained and without any note or explanation bypassed. “In the background, a newscaster’s head spun 360 degrees; no-one seemed to notice but me, and when he noticed my stare he just shrugged, as if to say, ‘That’s life’.”
(3) The barn owl variety. To do something quiet and horrendously bizarre, because one keeps drawing a blank trying to find any other option. “‘At which point he calmly sat down, removed his pants, tied them round his head, told me I did not know him, and bicycled away,’ the suspect’s wife said.”
(from the DEIWE: the Dictionary
of Expressions I Wish Existed)