Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Who Are Your Bookshelves For?

Last week on The Passive Voice, there was an excerpt from the article "Paper Chasing" on 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?


Nicky said...

I love displaying my books, so much so that having them in boxes now, preparing for a trans-Pacific move is too much to think about. I love arranging them and making them pretty and clearly visible to anyone who might come in, and giving up any book for any reason is difficult. I'm definitely a book hoarder in that regard.

Jon Jefferson said...

The books I tend to keep are more for reference than anything else. Pretty much none of my books have value outside of their intrinsic value of the information inside. Much like you, I spent much of my life living in limited space so books have been read and sold or borrowed from the library. The kindle has changed that somewhat now. I hoard books on the kindle because they can all be stored in the cloud where my space isn't taken over.

Pat Dilloway said...

Like you I trimmed my collection significantly when I had to move a couple of times. Mostly I keep my favorite books and series.

Sandra Almazan said...

Nicky, I too hate having books in boxes instead of on the shelves where they belong.

Jon, the Kindle has been a boon to readers. I wonder why people feel the need to dismiss and pump up paper books so much. Both formats have advantages and drawbacks.

Pat, moving is hard on collections, but it does help show what's most important to you.

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