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Who is the Imelda Marcos of Books?

In "C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success" by Harriet Rubin (New York Times, 21 July 2007), Michael Moritz—the venture capitalist who invested in Google, YouTube, Yahoo and PayPal and owns thousands of books—is quoted as saying, "My wife calls me the Imelda Marcos of books."

The reference to Imelda Marcos, the wife of former President Marcos who supposedly had 3,000 pairs of shoes, was very likely meant as a joke. But it does indicate that personally owning so many books can be a sign of "ostentatious extravagance," the definition given by Marcos herself for the word "imeldific."

Conventional wisdom would assert that American CEOs have the money to spend on their personal collections, but most Filipinos can't really afford to buy books. This, however, may not necessarily be so. Could it be that Filipinos just do not find books worth the expense? After all, the proliferation of beauty parlors, cell phones and TV sets in the poorer areas of Metro Manila shows that Filipinos do spend on what may be considered luxuries.

And what of rich Filipinos? They have the money, but who really knows how many of them buy and read books? I think it's much more likely that Imelda Marcos wore out more of her shoes in a year than read the few books, if any, in her library =)

Despite the title above, this post is not really about who the Imelda Marcos of books is today. Many have offered suggestions regarding why very few Filipinos read books, but I don't think any research-based studies have actually been done. Do leave a comment if you know of any.

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