Books = Clutter?

I own a lot of books.

I currently have approximately 300 books sitting on my shelves. With 200 or so being non-fiction, I’ve read at least half of my books cover to cover; the others have been used as a resource for myths, recipes, or similar materials. My books fill four small three-shelf stands to the brim.

I used to own more.

How much more? Well, I gave away about five boxes of books to a library before moving overseas in 2007. I’ve sold books to used bookstores multiple times recently, cloth bags shoved full in rows on their counters. I’ve let my friends have boxes of books that I weeded out based on repeated content or non-interest on my part; dozens of coverless romance books found new homes. In my life, I’ve probably owned a couple thousand books.

Books are my friends.

I started collecting books after fourth grade, once I’d gotten well hooked on Animorphs and started reading romance books with my mother. In seventh grade, I discovered Wicca and earth spirituality; my book collection exploded when I got my first job at a bookstore a few years later. In college, books available for 25 cents each had me collecting mythology, women’s studies, and anthropology texts. Shortly after that, a loophole for employees at another bookstore let me walk home with dozens of coverless paperbacks from the romance and fantasy sections. Books are my escape mechanism, especially when I’m lonely, depressed, or in need of a break from stress.

I have a Kindle, but I’m not impressed with e-books (yet).

E-books are overpriced. I won’t get into a long-winded discussion on why I feel that way, but it means I don’t feel happy owning e-books. Then we add the complications of how thoroughly you actually “own” your e-books , and I’m not ready for the e-book commitment. I’d love to be, since I’m a Trekkie and an eco-freak who loves the idea of technology correcting an issue of paper use for me. There are just too many kinks still being worked out for me to invest in a fully digital library.

My problem is space.

I’ve slowly chipped away at the junk in my life. Knicknacks, old clothes, duplicate items. I’ve given away tons of stuff to charity and weeded out unneeded pretties for gifts and barter with friends. That said, I’m 26 and live with three other adults (same age range, give or take a couple years). As a group, we create a LOT of clutter simply by existing. My main contribution is my book collection; it takes up parts of two walls in our living room.

Am I ready to change?

I had an interesting (sleepy) discussion last night about all of this. Am I ready to let go of the last pieces of clutter I cling to? And should I? It’s an interesting philosophical and logical question. What would have to happen for me to willingly give up my books?

  • I would need a copy of each book for my Kindle. It’d need to be a file type that was easily transferable (i.e. if I get a Nook or some off-brand reader, I want to be able to use my e-books still).
  • I’m paranoid, so I’d want my e-library stored in at least three places: my Kindle, an external hard drive, and a cloud like Google Drive. I’d want to make sure I never lost my library completely due to losing my Kindle or some other misfortune.
  • I would need understanding from my loved ones. Just because I agreed to switch to e-books wouldn’t mean they could immediately dump all my books off at the used book store. I’d need time to let go in batches, to see if I truly *need* to keep any of them for purely sentimental reasons. Maybe that copy of “Stranger in a Strange Land” with the coffee ring was with me when I found out my neighbor died in Iraq; maybe he gave it to me.
  • I would need money. This is the simplest and hardest of my issues. I like legal stuff. I don’t download songs or movies, and I use services like Hulu and Netflix rather than watching shows online (though I know a few places to look if I really can’t wait for the newest episode of, say, Doctor Who). That said, I have personal issues with downloading pirated e-books, even though they cost too much to buy. Another sad fact is that some of my books are OLD and not available in digital formats; I’d need to find someone who took the time to scan up a copy, which happens to be illegal as well. *sigh*

I’m seriously considering this idea of book-free life.

I’d have to commit to a LOT of changes. I wouldn’t get to buy books at the store; instead, I would order the e-book as soon as it was available, and deal with overpricing (in my opinion) in that market. In some cases, that would suck; look at Robert Jordan’s e-book of his final Wheel of Time installment, now releasing a few months after the print edition. But most of my authors don’t do that kind of staggered release date junk. I’d have to convert my e-books to transferrable file types using tools you find online, so that I could back them up and prevent crap like Amazon suddenly pulling a title from my personal library; I’m not sure about the legalities or technicalities of that yet. And I’d have to give up on awesome places like Hastings and Half Price Books, only browsing and writing down titles to go get (and often the best ones are too old to be digitalized, which takes me back to illegally scanned junk… ugh!).

What are your thoughts?


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