The “Best Seller Syndrome”
By Apolinario Villalobos
A very popular book store in the Philippines patronizes “best sellers”…books of foreign authors. They are prominently displayed right at the entrance of their stores. To cap their promotion effort founded on the colonial mentality of Filipinos, the establishment invites the foreign authors to come over all the way from their so-called “first world” homelands…to sign purchased books which the suckers devour with all their best literary duplicity.
Judging a book is subjective, a fact that cannot be questioned. What can be the best material for one may be trash for another. But an impression can be a very significant influencing factor. How can that fact be questioned when all it needs for a book to be grabbed at bookstores is a review made by influential people…known in their respective field, that do not necessarily show them as literary personalities. This attitude is akin to the “identified with” syndrome, too.
Some Filipinos buy popular books, especially, the hard-bound sets of encyclopedia to create an impression so they are prominently displayed in living rooms. Some friends unabashedly admit that they have not opened any volume of the set and that they are there, just for display, without of course expressing their desire to enhance the sophisticated impression that they practically try to solicit from their visitors.
When word spread about an obscure book that happened to be a favorite of a rags-to-riches business tycoon, suckers rushed to book stores to buy a copy or two, with the extra as a gift to a friend, complete with a “dedication” where the information about its being read by a famous Filipino businessman is also scribbled. I got my copy this way – from a friend who tries hard to make an impression that he is “intelligent”, just because he reads a lot. I have come across the book long before it became popular and sold for only just less than a hundred pesos, but when it got popular the tag price has soared between 300-400 pesos depending on the store selling it. I also found the book prominently displayed in offices I visited, as some kind of a coffee table book.
During one of my visits to a book store, I came across a book with a triangulized corner note about its being the fifth edition, and with sold copies running to millions. This time my sucker instinct made me buy a copy, parting with my hard-earned pesos, especially, because, as the synopsis at the outside back cover said, it was indeed a good read. In the evening when I browsed through the pages thoroughly, my blood pressure shot up because many paragraphs were enclosed with quotation marks…meaning, contents were copied with impunity though with the safety of the said literary marks and bibliography which ate up 14 pages! I did not notice them when I bought the book because I was in a hurry, and I trusted the “best seller” come on. There went my 300 pesos! In my disgust, I burned the trash!