The artists’ book How to Shoplift Books by David Horvitz is a guide on how to steal books.
It details 80 ways in which one can steal a book, from the very practical, to the witty, imaginative, and romantic.
This textbook is readable, but also shamelessly draws attention to its existence as an object, a conversation starter, a thing that can be acquired by fair means or foul. This is a book that turns a point of sale display into an intellectual and ethical adventure. A comprehensive guide to stealing books with its price printed on the cover, clearly visible, provokes the visitor of a bookshop to become aware of the unconscious decisions, pre-empted by others, that we make every day. The poetic, funny and paradoxical texts also bring to light some structural elements of the mechanics of bookselling and our relation to the exchange of goods. It inserts friction into the conditioned behaviour we display when we are moving through commercial spaces. All advertising tells us to buy things, we rarely come across a message encouraging us to steal – especially not one with the authority that print still carries.