Instead of going home for a feast this past weekend, I took a trip across the Atlantic to Dublin and explained to more than one person that no, we do not exchange presents on Thanksgiving in America. (As a rule, however, I am always open to receiving gifts, regardless of the time of year.) Adventuring through the city with a friend, we made our way over to a book shop. Why is that? (Aside from the obvious, that is). Because he reminded me of the existence of book tokens, which are quite prevalent in the UK and Ireland, if my memory serves correctly. They also make great Thanksgiving gifts.
Book tokens are generic sort of gift cards that are valid at nearly all bookstores. Instead of giving money for a specific shop, book tokens can be used variably, but only for, as the name would suggest, books. After doing a little research, I discovered that book tokens were invented in the 1920s by a man called Harold Raymond, who was very put out upon discovering that of a collective 119 presents exchanged between himself and his friends, a mere three of them were books. After polling “a few chaps and chapesses*,” Raymond discovered that this was true across the board and decided to do something about it. Thus (six years later), book tokens!
According to Wikipedia, the United States also has a book token program, but I certainly have never seen evidence of one. It’s a lovely idea that doesn’t tie the recipient down to one particular institution, which, I feel, makes it feel like a greater gift. It was just as fun picking out 50 euro worth of books for my friend as it would have been had it been my own credit.
In a world where bookstores are closing left and right and e-readers are competing with one another, the freedom to redeem book credit anywhere would be appreciated by its recipients. It’s an excuse to explore all the literary purchase options available, as well as affords the holder the opportunity to comparison shop.
Am I wrong? Do these things exist in America and I am just woefully ignorant? No one I’ve spoken to on this side of the ocean is aware of them either, so if they are available, then someone needs to tell me!
*Yes, you are correct. I included this quote solely so I could use the term “chapesses.”