As some of you may be aware, I moved recently. It was quite an…interesting exercise, packing up and moving, but I’ve ended up in quarters significantly nicer than those I left. And along the way, I had occasion to reflect once more on the persistent folly of moving reams and reams of dead trees. I refer, of course, to my bookshelves.
Which of us hasn’t heard tales of people who came to love ebooks upon having to move, and realizing just how many boxes were taken up by all their dead tree books? There have been stories of people getting rid of printed books altogether and being the happier for it. And I have to admit, I’ve been more than a little tempted from time to time.
Those books don’t even represent all of the printed books I own. I’m pretty sure there are at least two or three more big boxes of paperbacks and a couple more of textbooks among the relics of past moves currently stored in my parents’ basement. Relics they’ve been talking about bringing on to me, now that I have room in which to put them.
I wonder if there will even be room for them all on my bookshelves when they come? I have a sneaking suspicion I will either need to invest in another bookshelf or two, or else begin the triage process of deciding exactly which books I want to try to find a new home.
But there was never the slightest thought of trying to get rid of all the books, even as I laboriously ensconced them into the many boxes I begged from local liquor stores (though there was a touch of sadness that I didn’t get to drink any of the booze from said boxes). Even if I had to admit it wasn’t likely I was going to be reading many of them any time soon. Most of my most treasured books are now in electronic form in my Kindle library, or my Calibre library on my Dropbox. Why keep the printed books at all?
Part of it is, of course, that some of them are autographed. There’s even one—Black on Black by K.D. Wentworth—whose author has since passed on, alas, and won’t be autographing any more books ever again. Those books are precious to me, but they’re far from the majority of the books on the shelves. Many of them, I’ve never even read to begin with—books I was given at the Gen Con Baen Roadshow, or that I picked up at BookExpo America. So why do I care for them?
I suppose it’s just that I like having full bookshelves—shelves full of books I have read, or might want to read eventually. They’re a tangible representation of my literary taste, and in some way they describe who I am for the people I invite into my home to inspect. They’re all carefully alphabetized, too, which might itself say something else about me—most likely, just that I’m the son of a couple of librarians.
With that being said, I have to admit to being glad of my ebook collection, too—not least because, if I actually owned the 1,389 books from my Kindle and Calibre libraries in print, those would probably have taken up even more shelves than all the dead-tree titles I have now! But those books are supremely portable. They all fit into the hard drive of my computer, and the Dropbox stash had no need to change position at all.
At the same time, I’ve been doing a lot of audiobook listening lately. Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), read by the author, was a fun listen from Audible while boxing up my life. Then while unpacking, I listened to Scout’s Progress and Mouse and Dragon by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, from the Liaden Universe series that I so adore. I’ve been finding audiobooks really are good for the ears while you’ve got your hands and eyes busy doing other things.
Anyway, I now have everything unpacked into a much larger, 99-year-old condo unit with a basement, two floors, and a finished attic where I’m even now sitting and typing this into my desktop computer. I’ve cooked my first meal—a huge pot of chili that will provide grist for my next journal entry. I’m enjoying the ambiance of this new part of town in which I find myself. And I have shelves full of books downstairs to be aesthetically pleasing, and a hard-drive full of ebooks upstairs to throw up on my screen at need.