Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jun 1, 2006

The Purge

As a bibliophile I have a perennial problem that makes housework a greater challenge than it normally is: books all over the floor. Not just the floor, even, but on any and every flat surface available. So, today I decided to make a frontal assault on this problem. I'm getting rid of my books. I've increasingly lost the tendency to accumulate possessions over the years because I just move too often and have too little storage space. There's quite a few positive aspects to an unencumbered existence.

I'm not getting rid of all of them, of course (I've had books since before I could read!), just the ones that aren't worth the time and effort to re-read and thus are taking up space, collecting dust, and straining my back when I move. So, of course, the question became, which which of my books are actually worth keeping? The answer, I discovered, was: painfully few.

Some are just so battered that I'm going to replace them, but the truth is that a lot of the books I own just aren't that good. Either that, or I've outgrown them. I'm keeping a few for sentimental reasons (Where the Red Fern Grows, for instance) and those that I would rate a 4+, but the rest are getting shipped to the gulag. I wonder why so few of them are worth keeping. Is it just that my taste in books hasn't been that good? Do I keep walking past the good ones on the shelf?

Or is the truth that there really aren't that many really good books out there, regardless of the huge masses of them in print?

I don't think that I'll miss them (I didn't when I abandoned them for a year), although getting them out of the house is going to take some work. I wish Half-Price would pick them up like the Salvation Army will pick up donated furniture. Heck, I'd let Half-Price have them for FREE if they'd just come and GET them.

My housemate asked me a bizarre question, too: what will your kids read? My answer to this is: they can buy their own durn books and carry them around themselves.

All this makes me wonder why e-books haven't taken off more. I'm not going to suddenly stop reading mediocre books just because I've stopped keeping them. Actual books are nice in that they don't require batteries and they're portable (individually, anyway), but if that could be solved reasonably well I, at least, would love to be able to buy my mediocre books online and be able to read them right away. I know there are some devices for this out there. I'll have to look around at them.


Nancy said...

There are these handy devices called libraries, too. I use mine all the time.

Jennifer Snow said...

I generally prefer the bookstore, though, possibly because libraries aren't usually as pleasant to visit as the bookstore.

softwareNerd said...

If getting to a post-office is convenient, sell them on Amazon.

Jennifer Snow said...

I'd rather sell them to Half-Price. Less money, less time, less postage.

James said...

I try to do this regularly, with everything (clean up, throw away), and I love it.

As to your mention of e-books, I have thought about this before, because I wish everything were available on my computer. And I've polled people I know. The most common response I get is that reading a computer screen is undesirable, and there's "just something" about holding and reading a book. How old were the providers of this most common response? Mid-thirties and up pre-computer-gens. What is this "something"? The I've-done-it-since-I-was-little-and-I'm-
not-gonna-change syndrome.

And my age (I'm 22) and younger? From what I can tell and from asking, they don't mind reading on a computer screen.

With the popularity of blogs and the internet in general increasing all the time, my prediction is that books will soon fade away as all outdated technology does, and sooner than later.

Jennifer Snow said...

The "something" that I like is the fact that I can pick the book up and take it with me anywhere. The computer isn't so mobile, and even notebooks require enough infrastructure that you have to cart around a small bag at the very least.

PDA's are too small to read lengthy documents on, IMO, you'd get horrible eyestrain and run the batteries down something fierce. What you really need is an electronic device approximately the size of a paperback (slimmer, perhaps) that is essentially all screen with really good battery life on it.

James said...

Agreed. I'm looking forward to a flat, light, touchscreen computer, comparable to today's desktops (or better), which also somehow enables me to type (or reads my thoughts), and which I can take wherever I go, easily. In my case it would also have to be durable, or bend slightly. I'm pretty sure they're close to developing this, so I'm fully expecting results within my lifetime, easily (I know they have bendable electronic paper already). I try to accomplish this with my little laptop, but it's still primitive when I think about what I really want.

Mike said...

I agree with your assessment of saving books, but the question of what books you might give your children is a little different. Good books, especially good series, are those you read and think, "Boy, it'd be cool to save this and read it with or to my kids some day." Think, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Harry Potter. Now that my children are older, I feel the same way about the Foundation series by Asimov and Harlan Ellison (although he's pretty dark for any age group). I don't think this alters your point. You'll still only keep your good books and, like me, wonder why you haven't gotten rid of the rest.