Joe Konrath’s recent post, Digital Me, focuses on our collective love affair with home entertainment and its conversion to digital media. In particular, he talks about replacing much of his vast book collection with digital versions. I confess, ever since I bought my iPad, I’ve had urges to do the same.
Several hundred books collect dust on bookshelves throughout our house. I keep them because I might want to read them again. Some day. Or because my daughters/husband may want to read them. Some day. In some cases, I keep them on hand only so I can steal the authors’ writing techniques.
Some of these books have not been opened in 10 years or more. Even so, I’ve always felt the need to keep them around. Just in case.
And then I bought my iPad. You can collect an awful lot of books on a 16 gig iPad and they take no significant space in your house. I can loan books to my family’s e-readers. If that doesn’t work, I can loan the iPad itself (some restrictions apply, so don’t get ideas, children).
My books used to be shelved alphabetically to help me find a title easily. But then I ran out of space. Now I’ve got volumes crammed two deep on the shelves, with paperbacks wedged into the gaps any way they’ll fit. I only know where the oldest ones are. That’s because I haven’t moved them in years and they are still in alphabetical order behind the jumble.
And then I bought my iPad. All the reader apps have some sort of easily-searched contents listing. You can find your book and start reading just by touching an entry in the card catalog.
I used to read for hours on weekends and in the evenings. But I’ve been slowing down recently. I grow impatient and bored more easily, setting books aside to watch bad TV. Where I used to slog through at least half of a weak book before giving up on it, I now sometimes quit after just a chapter or two, even though the book cost me $8-$15. I figured I must be getting pickier with age, that maybe books aren’t as good as they used to be.
And then . . . I bought my iPad. Yes, I still wince at typos and clumsy writing. But I have finished more novels in a shorter time during the few weeks since I got my iPad than I read the whole previous year on paper. Turns out, the source of my impatience was eyestrain. The words on the printed page fade and blur when I try to read, with or without my glasses (which I usually can’t find, anyway). So I get tired of reading quickly. With the iPad, I can adjust font size and brightness to read comfortably for hours.
This post is not meant to be an ad for iPads. You could easily replace “iPad” with “color Nook,” or maybe “Kindle.” The point is, my e-reader has made my reading life easier and better.
So, sometime soon, I’ll be going through all of my books, getting rid of the ones I’ve always secretly known I’ll never read again (or, in some cases, never read for the first time). If I change my mind later, I can always download an e-book version that will last forever and never get dusty. Same with books I refer to often—why not have them all in one handy place?
I’ll still keep some physical books—the ones with sentimental value, that I’ve carried with me since childhood, full of my chocolate stains and dead ants from when I used to read in the fort I built under the sumac bushes. And I’ll keep any books signed by the author, if only because I never want that author to find his/her signed book in a used bookstore, like he/she no longer matters.
The transition has already begun. Already, I feel guilty if I buy a physical book, like I’m some kind of dust-collecting, resource-sucking tree murderer. The only thing stopping me from complete and immediate conversion is that sometimes the e-book costs more than the paper book.
But I predict that soon 100% of the books I buy for myself will be digital. Well, maybe 97%. Old habits . . .