Home > Personal Tales > Of buying stolen books

Of buying stolen books

By Kumlachew Fantahun

Being something of a book lover, I usually visit those places where used books are sold, for that is where one would, unexpectedly come across real finds, classics of real value and precious things.

The problem with those places, however, is that you don’t know where the used books come from and if you are a conscientious type and would like to buy the books, you will be put in a moral quandary of complicity to individuals who stole the books and provided them to the book sellers.

And that is what haunts me every time I visit these places.If you visit most of the used books vendors and even some ‘legal’ bookshops, you will find books, which upon close observation are stolen form libraries or individuals.

I once found a book of a certain acquaintance being sold by these vendors. As his name was on the book, he later managed, upon my notice to ‘redeem’ his book. After I helped him get his book back, I had, in an ironic twist to the story, the misfortune of seeing two of my books on sale at book vendors. Heaven knows how they got there.

Invaluable books of libraries, which are donated or purchased at considerable price from foreign countries, are stolen and are sold out for cheap prices.

This is, of course, in spite of my sad discovery that that the people at the libraries were not as concerned as one might expect. I once talked to a certain official with the Kennedy library of the AAU about books stolen from the library and often sold at book vendors (to convince myself I have fulfilled my responsibility of repaying my debts to my alma mater!!).He told me that the library had capacity limitation to stop books from being stolen but in the near future a task force will be assigned to collect stolen books and get punished those involved. Heaven knows when, in this land of bureaucracy, the task force will begin operation.

Recently, I visited a ‘legal ‘ bookshop, which normally doesn’t sell used books. As I was searching for any newly published books, my eyes fell on several voluminous academic reference tomes.Amazed at to where they got them from and while leafing through I found that they were stolen from the reference section of the Kennedy Library. To stumble across such invaluable book, was just a luck one doesn’t always encounter. Being a kind of person who like Oscar Wilde can overcome everything except temptation, I readily succumbed to the lure and I purchased the books.

This incident brought to my mind a friend who tends to err on the side of being upright and on principle to refuse to buy books which he knows or suspects are stolen from libraries or individuals. Much I respected his integrity and his puritanical stand, I refused to let my conscience be assailed by any moral qualm and proceeded home with my new found exploits.

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Categories: Personal Tales
  1. alem
    October 3, 2006 at 2:08 am

    It is sad that the library is losing out its resources by such petty theft. It looks like the shops are encouraging it too by buying the stolen books. Perhaps if the first book stolen was rejected it wouldn’t have come to this. Don’t feel bad about buying them at least they fell in to the hands of someone who know what they are worth. See it as safe keeping it for the library if you like cause you can donate them back one day.

  2. Chuchu
    October 4, 2006 at 6:27 am

    How can u be sure all the books there are stolen?
    Can’t the owners themselves sell them?
    To be honest, as long as, i pay from my own pocket, I don’t care where they have come from.

  3. alem
    October 4, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    Chuchu almost all books that are property of libraries have a stamp to say who they belong to. that’s how you know where they come from. Libraries do not sell reference books out they don’t even lend them out for that matter.
    I hope your ‘I don’t care where they come from I paid for them..’ attitude appy for books only 🙂

  4. Amelkach
    October 20, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Your piece reminded me of an old friend back home who was fond of reading and buying books. He used to spend huge amount of his salary for books.
    But when he goes broke and has no money for Chat and drink, he would take his treasured books to Ashenafi Bookshop around the Stadium area and sell them for a dirt cheap price. Often times, he regretted of his action as he knew he had to pay three or four times to own them back. This friend of mine dyed of AIDS two years ago and I still miss him and laugh when I remember some of his strange habits.

  5. kin
    January 27, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Don’t you know that keeping into your possession something that you know is not yours,without the consent of the owner or possessor is criminal offence,and punishable under the Ethiopian Criminal Law-art 40(being an accessory after the fact) or by being an accomplice for a thief.Citizens also do have the legal duty to notify to the approriate body of their possession of something which doesn’t belong to them.Founder-keeper belongs to those innocent childhood triumphs of being able to keep ‘korki’.Be ware-Know your rights and obligations ’cause ignorance of the law is not an excuse.At least,though,you should be happy the Federal Police is not blogging on this site,as you would have left sufficient evidence to be charged of being an accomplice for theft out of your very own willful(ignorant though) confession.Nonetheless,it was a good read.But do watch it,bro!

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