Food writer Rebekah Denn pointed out on Twitter recently that the holds list for the Seattle Public Library's copies of Modernist Cuisine is enormous; as of today Volume 1's reserves is running 179 people strong. By our calculations, the wait for a copy of Nathan Myhrvold's manifesto (or even just one volume of it) would be a matter 10 years and four months, if all 179 people kept a volume the maximum 21 days.
Tom Horne, an assistant director of technical and collection services at Seattle Public Library, says that the staff struggled with how many copies to order, and whether it was better not to offer the books at all rather than deal with the long wait times. The local and national buzz surrounding the Bellevue-based project meant interest would run high, but with the library's current fiscal situation, it just wasn't feasible to buy enough copies of the $625 set to meet the library's goals of having one copy for every six holds.
The library ended up purchasing two of the Modernist Cuisine sets. One is for patrons to check out; since the entire set is a tad bit heavy to carry home, the library is circulating the volumes individually. Horne says the other copy recently arrived in the reference section at the Central Library. "Everyone is invited for a sneak peak downtown while waiting for reserves to be filled," he says.
Granted paging through a volume in the reference section isn't the same as taking it home to try making your own batch of carbonated mojito spheres. But let's face it: most of us just want to marvel at the pretty pictures and mind-bending recipes.
UPDATE: Horne passed along this very interesting piece about how the San Francisco Public Library came to make the same purchasing decision for Modernist Cuisine.
· @RebekahDenn [Twitter]
· Why Buy a $625 Cookbook? [EarlyWord]
· All Previous Modernist Cuisine Coverage [-EN-]