A novel way to put an end to compulsive book-buying

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The Independent Online
ALL sorts of claims are made by people who want to help you to kick habits such as smoking, drinking and overeating. You must have seen their ads. Lose weight] Kick the smoking habit] Give us money] Together we can do it]

(Even the Tory party does it. Give us your vote, it said, and we can get the country out of the mess we put it into] Together we can kick the recession habit])

Whether these methods really, actually work, I don't know. Well, except for the Tory method - we know that doesn't work. We gave the Tories the votes, and they said thanks very much indeed, and I don't know what they did with the money but certainly it didn't go towards curing us of the recession habit. Still, enough people gave them the vote for the Tories not to care. That is what advertising is all about.

But my doubts about the usefulness of these ads have suddenly been swept aside by a leaflet that fell out of a magazine I bought last week. It had been inserted in that magazine by TSP, which stands for The Softback Preview, a sort of book club, with an address in Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Not just a book club. It is also benefactors to the human race. I know this, because it makes this proud claim: 'You choose any three books . . . You only pay pounds 1 each . . . You never have to buy another book.'

To someone like me, who has a compulsion to buy another book every time I go out, this is an offer I hardly dare believe. But that is the promise it makes. If I buy three books from TSP, in softback at pounds 1 each, I never have to buy another book. Again. Ever. I can go into a bookshop, old or new, and come out with the same amount of money I went in with. I will be cured of the book-buying habit. TSP says so. It doesn't say: 'You never have to buy another book from us,' or 'You never have to buy another book from a book club advertising on bits of paper that fall out of magazines.' It goes the whole hog and says: 'You never have to buy another book.'

This is the cure I've been seeking for years. I tend to buy books slightly faster than I can read them. They pile up. I get books that have been well reviewed, or personally recommended by friends. I receive them for birthdays. I probably shoplift them, for all I know. Publishers send me books, hoping I will read them and say nice things about them. Poor publishers. They have no idea how far down the queue they are, behind books I was given last Christmas but one, books I have recently discovered behind the radiator, or books I picked up in second-hand shops . . .

That has been my downfall, really, second-hand bookshops. Once you discover that they offer the best value, you are lost. If you know you can go into a second- hand bookshop and often get the original hardback edition cheaper than a new paperback, it isn't long before you are hooked. And that is one reason book addicts like me have too many books, buy faster than we can read, spend money on bookshelves, and risk our marriages by putting piles of books where furniture should be.

But those days are over. TSP of Chippenham has said that with its magic treatment (just buying just three books for pounds 1 each), it guarantees a cure. You'll never have to buy another book. That's what it says. Pretty clear, I'd think. Not as clear as if it said: 'You'll never want to buy another blasted book again', or 'The very idea of book-buying will fill you with loathing from now on', but near enough.

I suppose it's done with aversion therapy. Any three of the books on offer will presumably put you off book-buying for life. But I wonder which I would find most off-putting. The one by Ben Okri? I've never read a Booker prizewinner. It might do the trick. The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception? Sounds deadly enough. Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy? I read that once, trying to find out what Nietszche thought. My German tutor at university almost had a fit. 'You consulted Russell on Nietszche?' he stormed. 'My God] That's like asking the Archbishop of Canterbury for a character reference for the Devil.'

There are several books on Chaos Theory, which was fashionable when all those books first came out, and one on aromatherapy, and Kenneth Clark's Civilisation, and The Art of Sexual Ecstasy, and . . .

Oh, come on. Any three will do. Let's be brave. Here we go. Goodbye, book-buying] Hello, spare time and freedom]

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