Against Books

I don't understand it. I used to love books. I've even posted about how much having books has been a part of my life. Now I want nothing more to get rid of them.  All of them.*

I could blame Kindle. Kindle, you see, makes it possible to have books without having to physically keep them, which is a large part of the frustration I am feeling about all of the books that I have that are not on my iPad Kindle. See, there they are on the shelves, gathering dust, piles upon piles of them, overflowing onto the dresser and floor. Now that I have a Kindle app, I don't have to find shelf space for any of the new books that I buy, I can just read them and archive them, there in the ether.

You'd think that this would make me sad. It's what everyone always asks about when you start showing off how easy it is to download books into the app. "But don't you miss the feel of the book, turning the pages, having the object as a marker for the experience of reading?" Well, yes, but I am finding that the one thing I most definitely do not miss is the anxiety about whether there is going to be space on the shelf for that novel or non-fiction essay once I've finished with it. And don't even get me started on how many academic books I have.

Okay, so even if it's only a novel, I still might want to reread it sometime, maybe in twenty years. And, indeed, I have been grateful for the opportunity in recent years to revisit many of the novels that I read growing up thanks to the fact that my mother boxed them all up and brought them with her on various visits. But. But over the course of those twenty years, I will somehow have to find a place to store that book that I may or may not ever want to read again. And if I throw it away? Ah, the guilt! I will have to buy it again, feeling foolish, when all I needed to do was hold onto the copy that I already had.

And, no, I don't want to borrow it from the library. That simply involves more angst, about making sure I get the book back on time--and about not having a copy later in case I do want to reread it. So. But I don't think that what I am feeling at the moment is only about having more books than I can fit on the shelf. In part, it's about having any.  Which is confusing and more than sad because it means that I don't know who I am any more.

*Okay, maybe not quite all.  Maybe all but a shelf or two.


  1. I'm not reading this as a sudden dislike of books on your part, but a desire not to be owned by material things. As someone with a serious book habit I still understand that the space and storage issues I've gotten myself into.

    The way ebooks work now it's possible only to buy a right to read, not share, and there are limitations as to what file types it can read. Were I able to read multiple formats and loan afterwards, I'd get an ebook reader in a *second* to replace all of my fiction (alas, the resolution is still wanting, so I need to stick to paper versions of my art/fashion books).

  2. I know what you mean about not being able to share books that you have only on e-format. It's frustrating reading something and not being able for my husband to read the book, too. But, yes, yes, yes! It's about the responsibility of having to care for the books and feeling oppressed by their physical presence. It's also about (I realize now, having cleaned out half of a bookcase) making room for something new, which clearing out the old makes possible. One could simply keep buying more bookcases, but eventually even that wouldn't work. Yet another argument for living small?


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