Monday, October 20, 2008

The Shrinking Library and eBooks

home library 1We have a lot of books! Since we are contemplating a move after many years in our home the issue of what to do with our books has arisen once again. I am seriously and surprisingly moved by my attachment to these things that seldom leave the shelves after we read their final pages.

Admittedly once in a while I have to use some of the more factual books to look up something I vaguely remember that I once knew. Rarely do I disturb these denizens of our library room otherwise. I can trace my progression of interests by simply looking at the titles on a few shelves. The book collection is as eclectic as our lives have been; a montage of experiences with a range and breadth that we both cherish.

The current debate is whether or not to sell this house and simply move on in our lives. It makes little economic sense to hold onto either the books or the house.  On the other hand a lot of memories live in both.

If we sell the house the books will go. We have both agreed that getting rid of the books is the best solution to the problem of owning a ton or two of printed matter that really don’t matter anymore. Our lives have moved on to digital books and that library is a little lighter and easier to carry.

Books have been such a huge piece of both our lives that just contemplating dismantling our library slows us down. It is a room with all of the walls lined with Red Oak shelves around every wall from floor to ceiling. Of course there are books in every room in our house but this room was given over to its main function years ago.

The idea that it is possible to carry a whole collection of books, (a 2007 tower collection bigger than the one in this room,) around on a key chain hasn’t really sunk in to Henri's consciousness.  The idea that I can access more information than exists in the Library of Congress by just hooking up to the Internet still boggles the mind.

We are not hoarders -- have never found acquiring things to be particularly satisfying. Tools for Henri, shoes for Gigi and books are the only weak points in our armor against consumerism.

The tools and the shoes are already leaving for our daughters homes. Their husbands will find use for them, or not. The girls will wear the shoes.   But the books, our precious books, are hard to part with and even harder to leave behind.

I guess what it comes down to is the the emotionally wrenching choice that getting older brings to everyone. How do you give up your past one piece at a time?

We need a microchip for our memories. I am told that too will come eventually. See that book over there written by Ray Kurzweil. It talks about that very thing. Meanwhile we are agonizing over the options for the only room we both have ever truly loved and may just simply dismantle soon.

It is not nearly as pleasant as I would like it to be, but then change is sometimes the only option even if it is not at all comforting.

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