I currently rent an apartment. Consequently, I move relatively frequently, every few years. I don’t own much – no car, no fancy furniture, not much in the way of clothes or dishes, but one thing I’ve always had a *lot* of is books. I would guess at the peak I owned enough books to completely fill 6-7 floor-to-ceiling bookcases. This was a huge pain to deal with.

I had a complicated relationship with these books. Remember, they’re simply physical posessions, a collection of sheets of paper. I just love books, and love being surrounded by them. Some books I owned because they meant something to me. Some books I owned because I had to buy them in order to read them, and I didn’t want to get rid of them. And finally, some books I owned simply because I bought them used, in anticipation of reading them someday.

Even worse, I was caught up in what the books said about me, and how they represented my memory – as though the books were physical manifestations of what was stored in my head. If I discarded the book, would those memories slowly recede and evaporate?

So far this year I’ve read 58 books. That sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t amount to much out of that huge library. Let’s just say that my relationship with books was complicated.

I don’t exactly feel comfortable posting a suggestion to buy something, but I’ll make an exception in this case.

A week ago I picked up the new Kindle, and I have to say it changes everything. I doubt there’s much distinction between the Kindle and the Nook, I just saw the Kindle was cheaper and I prefer to buy online from Amazon rather than B&N, so I went with it. Consider this an endorsement of this generation of e-readers, rather than a specific product.

First off, the Kindle is light. You don’t have to flip pages, you can switch between books at will, and carry a huge amount with you. It’s more comfortable to lay down with and read than a paperback (never mind a huge hardcover). It’s easy to operate, the battery lasts forever

There are downsides. Browsing books is painful/impossible, as is flipping through them. There’s none of that lovely “book smell,” and I miss the texture of a real book. I suspect the Kindle is not as resistant to water damage.

Still, the current generation of e-readers is simply better than a book.

So, I’ve started to get rid of all those books I was so attached to. There’s a huge chunk of books that I feel I can let go of, because they mean nothing to me or I was able to locate a digital copy. As for all those books I’d read and didn’t want to discard because I felt my memories were bound up in them? Well, I can keep a digital copy. And I can keep a record of what I’ve read on GoodReads. That’s enough to feel that they’re not lost to the sands of time.

I’ve discarded about a bookcase worth of stuff in the past week, donating it to the library. There’s still a lot more to go through. And I don’t intend to get rid of all my books. Some have sentimental value, others are books that I love and want a physical copy of. Comic books or photo-oriented books don’t work on the Kindle at all. But letting go of all those heavy books I didn’t care too much about feels like releasing an anchor that was tied to my leg.

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1 Comment

  1. bigatojj

     /  December 12, 2011

    Hi, m741.
    And I thought I had too many books…
    The Kindle had the same effect on me. I also like its article mode to read blog posts. In fact I’m typing from it.


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