Well, here's another reason to buy e-books - evidently libraries are struggling to deal with the problem of bedbugs hiding out in their books and then being spread to patrons' homes, especially when they read in bed at night.
The New York Times reports that bedbugs and their eggs can hide in the spines of hardcover books. "The bugs crawl out at night to feed, find a new home in a headboard, and soon readers are enjoying not only plot twists but post-bite welts," the newspaper reports.
Libraries across the country are scrambling to deal with the problem - plus how to delicately tell a patron that he or she is bringing back books infested with the tiny critters.
One Long Island exterminator told the Times that he has had hundreds of clients buy a portable heater called PackTite to kill bedbugs, baking any used or borrowed book as a preventive measure before taking it to bed. Libraries are also ordering the devices, as well as a bedbug heat-treatment box called a ThermalStrike.
Libraries are training their staffers to spot the pinhead-size insects in returned books and treat the volumes with heat before reshelving. Libraries in Wichita, Kan., even brought in a bedbug-sniffing dog and held a "bedbug boot camp" for employees, showing them how to spot the telltale brownish stains, bug bits and little black dots that indicate the pests' presence.
Some books are more likely to harbor the pests than others. Philip Koehler, a professor of entomology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, told the Times that best sellers that have rested on many night tables are high risk, as are hardcovers with spines where a female can lay eggs.
"You probably don't want to check out a popular book," he told the newspaper. "Maybe try old history books."
Photo: Alex Wild/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis