Bookstore Owner Burns Books in Protest

Posted on May 28, 2007

Former Missouri bookstore owner Tom Wayne is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore. After he closed his used bookstore, Prospero's, he tried to give away 20,000 books he still had in a warehouse. But no one wanted them, not even the libraries. So he's started burning the books as a protest against our culture which is valuing the printed word less and less.

"This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today," Wayne told spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books. The fire blazed for about 50 minutes before the Kansas City Fire Department put it out because Wayne didn't have a permit to burn them. Wayne said next time he will get a permit. He said he envisions monthly bonfires until his supply - estimated at 20,000 books - is exhausted.

"After slogging through the tens of thousands of books we've slogged through and to accumulate that many and to have people turn you away when you take them somewhere, it's just kind of a knee-jerk reaction," he said. "And it's a good excuse for fun." Wayne said he has seen fewer customers in recent years as people more often get their information from television or the Internet. He pointed to a 2002 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, that found that less than half of adult respondents reported reading for pleasure, down from almost 57 percent in 1982.


Dozens of customers took advantage of the Sunday's book-burning, searching through those waiting to go into the fire for last-minute bargains. Mike Bechtel paid $10 for a stack of books, including an antique collection of children's literature, which he said he'd save for his 4-year-old son. "I think given the fact it is a protest of people not reading books, it's the best way to do it," Bechtel said. "(Wayne has) made the point that not reading a book is as good as burning it."

What a sad thing that no one wanted the books! Mike reportedly had just about everything: children's books, Tom Clancy novels, nonfiction, you name it. But it took a fire to get the word out. Maybe he should have just taken out an ad in the local newspaper, though?

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