Last week on The Passive Voice, there was an excerpt from the article "Paper Chasing" on thepointmag.com about books and book collecting. The author of this piece seems to think that collecting and displaying books, not just reading them, is a major part of books' appeal to serious readers. While I do have more books than the average person (I don't have an exact number, but the total is probably close to a thousand), I know there are people who have even more than that, who have rooms of books and not just shelves.
I lived in apartments for a good chunk of my adult life. With limited space, I sometimes had to purge my shelves of unwanted books before I could bring more in. Moving every few years also gave me incentive to trim my collection down, especially when I had to haul boxes of books up and down stairs. Even now, when my current house has triple the square footage of my last apartment, I still feel I need to limit the amount of physical books and bookshelves in the house. I've lost books in a couple of basement floods, so I don't feel comfortable keeping them down there, even if we had a finished basement. Perhaps this explains why I don't mind buying eBooks or borrowing books from the library. For me, the reading experience is more important than the physical act of collecting books. That doesn't mean my physical books are unimportant. I use a picture of one of my bookshelves on this blog, and the books I've kept do bring back memories of the stories or the authors. However, after I delete eBooks from my Kindle, I can remember them by associating them with the places I read them. My eBooks are never gone; they're just in Amazon heaven.
My bookshelves are more for me than anyone else. We do have some nonfiction books in the study downstairs, but the bulk of my books are in my office upstairs. I don't buy popular or prestigious books simply to impress other people. I buy books that I think I might like, and if I do, I may keep them. If not, they get resold. I don't expect my son to want to hold onto my books once I pass, but I do hope they find homes with other readers who like them.
How do you feel about collecting books? Do you hold on to physical books? Have eBooks changed your feelings about paper books at all?