Just after I returned to work a couple of months following the birth of my first son, a co-worker approached my cubicle with a surprise gift: a small stuffed caterpillar and, to match it, the classic board book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
It was a sweet gesture, deserving of an appropriate display of gratitude. I did respond with a “thank you,” but I think my nonplussed face gave me away because my colleague quickly asked, “Do you already have the book?”
Indeed, I did. I told her so, meaning to follow up politely and honestly with something along the lines of “We’ll keep this awesome spare copy at his grandma’s house.” (I knew I would be too lazy to return the book despite the fact that my colleague had thoughtfully provided a gift receipt.) Yet no gracious words actually exited my mouth. I blame sleep deprivation.
That, and I’m very talented at being awkward.
Back to the business at hand: I know many of us have had the experience of receiving two or three or 16 copies of the same popular baby books at a baby shower or just after your little one is born. What to do?
Enter Andover Bookstore, in Andover, Massachusetts. As The Atlantic reported this week, the store is establishing baby book registries. It recently notified its customers that expectant parents can set up registries by email by providing their names, due dates and the dates of their baby showers. The store’s email, according to The Atlantic, explained:
Including a list of books you are hoping to receive will allow us to stock those books, and give the list to your friends when they come in — all they have to do is let us know whose registry they are shopping for! Our computer system will tell us if someone has already bought the same book under your registry, so there is no need to worry about duplicates!
The idea isn’t completely — excuse the pun — novel. You can easily set up a baby registry on Amazon.com, for instance, and include books on your list. But Amazon has long expanded beyond books to become a marketplace for all things. I think being able to register at a books-only outlet might draw gift-givers who like to buy books but tend to ignore general registries that they assume are limited to baby bouncers and the like.
It’s not a fail-safe system, of course. You have to be sure to somehow let people know you have a book registry, whether it’s on Amazon, at Andover or elsewhere. And, as I mentioned before, there are plenty of well-intentioned gift-givers who eschew registries completely and go rogue. Then, there you are, winding up with duplicates again.
You could decide to return them if you can, donate then, keep extra copies at relatives’ homes or just keep them for yourself as back-ups. As Andover Bookstore manager Chantel Coughlin sagely noted, people may actually choose to request duplicates because, “(k)ids break books, so sometimes it’s OK to have that second copy.”
My children have, in fact, destroyed a number of books — either by ripping them or, worse, chewing on them — but somehow both lovely copies of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the cute caterpillar toy are, thus far, unscathed. I guess no one’s gotten quite that hungry, yet.
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Photo by Alice Gomstyn.