My Modern Book Dilemma


(No, those are neither my books nor my e-readers. Much as I might wish for either/both.)

This is a post for my fellow book-nerds. Whether it’s classics or comics or (like me) sci-fi and fantasy, if you have a love of books, you might sympathize with what I’m going through. First, a little context: I’m about to make the largest (physical) move of my life. I’m uprooting myself from Madison, WI, where I’ve lived for 19 years,* and plunging into the frozen reaches of Canada.**

In preparation for this momentous move, I’ve been divesting myself of most of my possessions. If you’re a Verity! listener, you probably already know of my aversion to “stuff.” It’s true, I’ve found much of this process fairly easy. Am I going to need all these kitchen items? Will I ever wear all these clothes again? Do I really need that many glitter lamps?*** The words “ditch it!” have become my catchphrase.

But then there are my books. I admit, I did okay with a first pass. There were some clunkers in my collection that could clearly go. A few classics I decided I never really needed to read. Some sci-fi/fantasy I didn’t particularly dig the first time around. Almost anything nonfiction.° Off to the used bookstore!

But now it’s time for pass number two. This weekend I’ll head to my parents’ house and drag five Rubbermaid®-style bins into the light of the living room and…well… I’ll probably sit there helplessly surrounded by books for far too long.

You see, what’s left are primarily books that have sentimental value, and as much as I like to spout off about things being “just things,” books occupy a tenderer place in my heart than pretty much anything else. As a child, these were my best friends, my private worlds, my routes of escape from a life that was often lonely and bland.°° Discarding these “old friends” is harder than discarding some of my actual childhood friends.°°°

That said, I’ve (finally) started to move into this century. I am now a reader of e-books. It’s still a new thing, but I’m finding I positively love the portability of my e-reader. I can be in the middle of several books at once,ˆ and I don’t have to cart all those tomes with me. Switching back and forth is delightfully easy. Before I tried it, I assumed I’d find the experience vastly inferior to the smell and tactile satisfaction of a physical book. Turns out I’m not that hidebound.ˆˆ

This isn’t the first time I’ve gone through this process. When I was young, music may have played an even bigger role in my life than books, yet I’ve managed to go almost entirely digital. I let go of nearly all my physical media and kept the files (well-backed-up). I do still have CDs from local bands, many of which I couldn’t reacquire digitally if I wanted to, but even those may go at some point.

I suppose that means there’s hope for me yet. Perhaps I’ll be able to cast aside the physical husks and recognize that the content, the magical worlds within, are what I truly love. I mean really–if I can’t fit them in the van, they’re going to sit in my parents’ basement indefinitely, and that’s not going to do anybody much good.

Before I let myself run away with that comparison, I should point out the significant difference between the CD-purge and my book dilemma. I digitized my CDs before I gave them away.ˆˆˆ I can’t do that with my books.ª If I want to revisit these precious gems, I’ll have to shell out for them again. Right now, that’s not a realistic possibility. Perhaps if I come back to them slowly enough over time, I can afford to rebuild my collection digitally. And of course, there’s always the library. Libraries rule!ªª

*gasp* Did I just talk myself into getting rid of my books?

Well, not quite, though I think I’m almost there! For now, I think my plan of attack will be to keep anything that’s out of print/unavailable digitally. The rest…well maybe I’m ready to be a bit more ruthless than I was when I started thinking/writing this all out. I’m probably not at the paper-free stage yet, and perhaps I’ll never really want to get to that point. Books are pretty, after all, and maybe a little sentimentality isn’t a terrible thing. But still. STUFF.

In the end, for me (and it always comes down to a personal choice in these matters—I fully support any- and everyone who keeps a large, physical library) I think I’ll feel better when I have fewer things around, so divesting myself of a few more objects I don’t strictly need will be a good, cleansing step.

Even if this first step is just a baby one.




*And it’s worth noting that I’ve lived in WI all 36 years of my life.

**I joke. It’s actually been much colder here in WI for the past few weeks. The Edmonton move is emphatically a good thing, and I cannot wait!

***Okay, so that one just might be a yes…

°I have real trouble reading nonfiction. Reading=escapism for me, and nonfiction rarely fills that role in my head.

°°Insert obligatory sob story about how I was a misfit/outcast/geek/nerd/shy kid. I think many of you understand this all too well.

°°°If you are a childhood friend who is reading this, don’t worry. I don’t mean you.

ˆSomething that is not at all unusual for me.

ˆˆA little bookish humor for you there.

ˆˆˆI didn’t sell them because I would’ve felt weird making money off something I can still technically use.

ªYes, smartass, I could scan them, but that asinine suggestion doesn’t even deserve this footnote of a response.

ªªAs do librarians. Shoutout to my librarian peeps! <3 you!

6 thoughts on “My Modern Book Dilemma

  1. sunspotmike says:

    Donate them or sell them at a garage sale (unless there’s something particularly rare or valuable that you’d like to keep for your collection.) You know what’s almost as good as re-reading a great book? Sharing it with someone who might love it. Someone who might find it for a dollar and be exposed to something totally new and awesome. I’ve found a ton of books that I love at used bookstores and I’m so happy that they were there in the first place. I’ve been donating/giving away my books slowly but surely for awhile now because well, you can’t take it with you and there’s so much great stuff that I haven’t read, I’m not afraid of never re-reading it. Sure, there’s a few with inscriptions and such that I’ll probably keep but not a lot. The rest of the books on my shelf are the ones that I haven’t read yet and plan to. (Even though I read almost everything on my Nook now, God what an awesome piece of technology. A gigantic bookstore available any time.) Anyway, take pics of your favorite or make a little scrapbook/collage of your favorites for fun reassuring reminders, but the words will always be there! You might miss them for a little while but the joy of sharing them is a wonderful way to reuse them.

    • Erika Ensign says:

      That is something I hadn’t even thought about, though it’s so obvious now that you point it out. The best way to convince me to get rid of things is to appeal to my generosity and my love of sharing cool stuff. Thanks Mike! I think more than any other advice, this one helps push me toward lightening my load!

  2. As someone who has moved across the world a couple of times, I understand the initial pain but ultimately freedom from purging the “stuff” from your life. In my household, I’ve gone digital and will even pay more for an ebook (ipad) so I don’t have to pay a physical copy. However, my husband is a book hound. He used to buy two copies of books, one to read and one to display! Every time I try to get him to get rid of something, it is like I’m asking him to cut off his own limbs. I’ve stopped asking because I do understand that books are like old friends who you never want to cut out of your life. I just prefer my friends to be weigh less and be available whenever I need them.*
    *I mean books not people…obviously.

    • Erika Ensign says:

      Heh. Steven and I have a very different view of “stuff” as well. I mean, look at his LEGO. :) But we’ve agreed that it’s nice that I don’t like having stuff ’cause it leaves room for his!

  3. madrigorne says:

    Get a list of the titles you’d like in digital form and send them to me. You have birthdays and such…

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