Termites destroy Three Investigators, Indiana Jones and Robotech book collection

Even before Amazon.com and EPUB were around, I was already scanning and using digital documents in the form of PDFs and transcribed text. Somehow, digital preservation was already in my mind during the time of bubblejet printers, cassettes and VHS tapes. PDF has its limitations and is admittedly somewhat clumsy even on capable devices while EPUB is definitely not perfect, but there are reasons why both formats persist today. An unlikely reason why the two formats are indispensable today is that paper and wood-eating termites can’t get to them.

I spent much of my youth amassing a library of paperbacks and hardbound books. Among my favourite series in my collection are different print editions of the popular American juvenile detective series, The Three Investigators (1964). I purchased different cover editions wherever I found them, whether it was the embossed edition from the UK, the original Random House wide-print edition, the excellent hardbound books with the original illustrations or the modern reprints with foil covers by Armada. Like most fans of the adult series, I preferred the original title Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, which changed after the famous director passed away. Robert Arthur, the creator of Jupiter, Pete and Bob, wrote the best Three Investigator stories although William Arden, M.V. West and other writers produced more books.

The Mystery of the Fiery Eye was the first Three Investigators book I read and probably my favourite from the 43 original books.

Roughly seven years ago, I had carefully packed the book collection in a huge cardboard box and made sure the duck tape that secured the box together was renewed regularly before I went off to work in various places and countries away from my library. I was hoping when I came back for them the collection would still be preserved. Sadly, even the plastic covering for each book didn’t protect my collection from merciless termites that built their homes on the pages and covers of my childhood favourites. Only a handful of the books survived the termite attack and even my complete collection of the divisive and unlikeable Three Investigators: Crimebusters series wasn’t spared.

The termites wormed in and out of the pages and made it their home.

The termites also ate through my complete collection of Del Ray Robotech books by Jack McKinney and the short-lived, poorly written Indiana Jones novels, which were mostly written by Rob Macgregor. I don’t feel too badly about losing them since the Robotech books were god awful and the Indy stories were pretty bad and generally considered non-canon. Losing my Three Investigators collection was far more painful considering they represented my idealism, innocence and sense of adventure.

I already have digital copies of all the Robotech, Indiana Jones and Three Investigators books in either PDF or EPUB. Some of them were admittedly downloaded from illegal sources, but considering the amount of money I spent on the originals I think my methods were somewhat justified. Still, the digital versions can never replace the print formats with the painted covers. Print editions for The Three Investigators series had several versions of covers depending on the year they were published and it’s sad that I’ve lost physical versions of them. 

Note: If you've never seen the different covers that were made for The Three Investigators series, you can visit the fan-site http://www.threeinvestigatorsbooks.com.

I moved my extremely expensive collection of Asian literature to airtight plastic containers and I wish I had done the same for the Hitchcock books. As a side note, the termites had started on my Spider-Man collection (1962-1994), but It looks like the polybags and cardboard backing for my Spider-Man titles saved them from being a meal for those destructive creatures. Today, my Spidey books are now safely in impenetrable plastic too. Thankfully, out of more than 350 issues, only less than ten books were brutally munched on by the termites - most of them reprints or books published during the era of Marvel Comics’ bankruptcy in the early 90s (the embarrassing "Clone Saga" included). At least two books that were destroyed were written by one of the worst Spectacular Spider-Man writers of all time, J.M. DeMatteis, so I guess the loss was not too bad. 

The termites had built a home within the plastic polybag of Marvel Tales #230. Thankfully, the issue was nothing more than a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #270 (1985).


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