Friday, 21 January 2011

About The Real Bibilophobia

For some time now, people have stumbled onto Bibliophobia...! while researching... bibliophobia. Even if it's by accident, I can't let them go away empty-handed. So...

Bibliophobia is, according to the Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913), "a dread of books".

"Bibliophobia" was said to be first used in popular English literature sometime before 1914, according to the Wikipedia. A much earlier use of the term - to refer to something else entirely - was in Religio Christiani, a Churchman's Answer to Religio Clerici, quoted in the October 1818 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine, in page 345, to refer to what I think is a fear of the Bible.

Bibliophobia has been defined as an irrational fear of books. It's not a common phobia, and I don't know anyone who has this. I picked it as the title of my blog to avoid changing domain names. I do have an aversion to books, but it's not serious enough to be a phobia.

A fear of books is rarely because of the book per se, but past experiences related to certain kinds of books, or the contents themselves. For a long while, I dreaded opening past issues of Reader's Digest dated more than 25 years ago. I hate and am deathly afraid of roaches, and a certain pesticide ad with a magnified shot of the insect's nightmarish segmented underside made occasional appearances in the magazine during the Eighties. It's the same reason I avoided a certain Papa Roach album.

As yet, shrinks have no big name for this kind of fear, but "subsets", or derivations of bibliophobia are out there.

Many people suffer only a subset of this phobia, fearing textbooks or historical novels or children’s stories, rather than a fear of all books. Mythophobia, or the fear of legends, can be considered a subtype of bibliophobia if the fear is of those legends that are written down. Metrophobia, or fear of poetry, is another subtype of bibliophobia.

- American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual
of mental disorders (4th Ed.)

And bad writing. Elements of bad writing, such as complex similes and metaphors, verbiage, and purple prose will put you off reading stuff. The publishing sector has its risks.

Possible symptoms of bibliophobia is marked by difficulties in reading, particularly when you're "encouraged" or rather, forced to read, say, out loud in front of class. If you have a learning disability, speech impediment, a fear of pronouncing difficult words (no big word for this, either) or foreign names (ditto), or simply illiterate, that might be the basis for being afraid of books.

At times, it's not just individuals who fear books. History is replete with incidents of book burnings, also called "biblioclasm" or "libricide". Notable ones include the immolation of Maya codices by Spanish missionaries, Qin Shi Huang's torching of scholars' books (and live burials of said scholars) and the Nazi-era biblio-bonfire.

The Wikipedia defines libricide as a "practice [that's] usually carried out in public", which "is generally motivated by moral, religious, or political objections to the material." In short, there isn't any logical or rational reason to be afraid of books.

To date, there doesn't seem to be any detailed record of bibliophobes or accounts of how they became afraid of books and how they managed to beat it. I suppose if there's no specific cure for the phobia, consultations with psychologists might provide some answers. Being afraid of (paper) books can be a bummer in civilisation, unless e-books take off in a big way.

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