The classic bibliophile is one who loves to read, admire and collect books, often nurturing a large and specialised collection. Bibliophiles do not necessarily want to possess the books they love; an alternative would be to admire them in old libraries. However, the bibliophile is usually an avid book collector, sometimes pursuing scholarship in the collection, sometimes putting form above content with an emphasis on old, rare, and expensive books, first editions, books with special or unusual bindings, autographed copies, etc.
Bibliophilia is not to be confused with bibliomania, an obsessive-compulsive disorder involving the collecting of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged, and in which the mere fact that an object is a book is sufficient for it to be collected or loved. Most bibliomaniacs, then, are compulsive hoarders, identifiable by the fact that the number of unread books in their possession is continually increasing relative to the total number of books they possess and read. Extreme bibliophilia may amount to a diagnosed psychological condition.Some use the term "bibliomania" interchangeably with "bibliophily" and in fact, the Library of Congress does not use the term "bibliophily", but rather refers its readers to either book collecting or bibliomania. The New York Public Library follows the same practice.
The term entered the English language in 1824, according to the Merriam-Webster's reference below. It is to be distinguished from the much older notion of a bookman (which dates back to 1583), which is one who loves books, and especially reading; more generally, a bookman is one who participates in writing, publishing, or selling books.
Bibliomania is an obsessive-compulsive disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged. One of several psychological disorders associated with books, bibliomania is characterized by the collecting of books which have no use to the collector nor any great intrinsic value to a genuine book collector. The purchase of multiple copies of the same book and edition and the accumulation of books beyond possible capacity of use or enjoyment are frequent symptoms of bibliomania.
Bibliomania is not to be confused with bibliophily, which is the usual love of books and is not considered a clinical psychological disorder.
People with bibliomania
- Stephen Blumberg
- Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872) suffered from severe bibliomania. His collection, which at his death contained over 160,000 books and manuscripts, was still being auctioned off over 100 years after his death.
Fictional characters with bibliomania
- Mel Gibson's character in the movie Conspiracy Theory suffers from triggered bibliomania, a form of mind-control that prompts him to buy a copy of J.D. Salinger's Catcher In The Rye every time he goes outside his apartment. (cf. MK-ULTRA papers, National Security Archives.)
- Yomiko Readman codename "The Paper" is a character in the anime Read or Die. She is a "paper user" who works for the British Library. She is also a bibliomane, whose apartment is literally stacked floor to ceiling with books. It is stated at one point in R.O.D the TV that she has read "thousands of books in her lifetime" which makes her unusual among bibliomanes, as most collect books because of a psychological problem, and do not actually read any of them.
According to Science and Technology Studies scholar Lawrence Eng, the main idea behind the concept of infornography is that, in modern society, "information is being considered not just a valuable commodity from a practical point of view, but something that generates an almost sexual thrill, something that we lust after and enjoy hunting because it is special and gives us power."
The definition (without explicitly using the term itself) is also greatly applied in most cyberpunk settings, where information can almost be considered a currency of its own, in a sense facilitating the development of an alternate world for 'escapism'. Megacorps, hackers and other kinds of people use information to strive. They can subtly be called "infornographers".
On the other hand, receiving much apparently trivial information may be educational and form useful intellectual compulsions/habits for obtaining more knowledge. Wikipedia may be regarded as having the potential of providing much infornography should someone use it compulsively. It is very much debatable where a healthy thirst for knowledge ends and infornography begins.