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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Curbing My Addiction

A great tempest rages inside me, one aroused by the recent advances in electronic publishing.  You see: I’m head-over-heels in love with books.  This is an addiction I try to manage.  Yet, regardless of how many books I donate, or otherwise dispense of in a given year, my house gets smaller, and my collection grows. 

Fifteen years ago, when I moved to my 1,100 square-foot home, a friend who helped me make two trips with a twenty-foot long U-Haul truck kept repeating that he had never seen anyone with so many boxes labeled books.  At the time, I thought he was just getting tired.  But now, I’m beginning to wonder if he wasn’t right in hinting that my love of books had gotten out of hand.  Books reside in every room of my house.  They fill the walls of my living room and my office.  In addition to the bookshelves, they also live in clear, plastic tubs in my guest room.  Books (mostly from last year’s World Fantasy convention) inhabit a cabinet in my master bedroom.  More are stacked next to the bed, and more still on the dresser.  Books lay atop the toilet in both bathrooms.  And then there are all the cookbooks in the kitchen, which for the most part sit sadly neglected, now that my wife and I know how to make our favorite dishes, and can easily find new recipes on the Internet.

The books we brought with us on vacation.
(Please note: this is us, being restrained).

It’s not just that I love the stories.  I love holding them in my hands, admiring the cover artwork, and turning the pages.  My father’s literary classics crowd the shelves of our guest bedroom.  I know, any time I wish, I could borrow copies of them from the library, or read them online.  I know I should give them away, as I’m allergic to dust and dust mites.  And then there’s all the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and the other books I collect.  Once I discover an author I really like, I want to read everything of his or hers I can get my hands on.  Even after I do so, and moving on to other authors and/or topics, I find it difficult to relinquish or wean large author collections, whether they’re in relatively new condition, edge-yellowed hardcovers, or crumbling paperbacks.  Even if I didn’t necessarily enjoy a particular novel the first time I read it, or don’t think I’ll get around to reading it in the foreseeable future, such books are more likely to go out of print, or prove difficult to acquire later on, than time-tested literary classics.  That book might significantly enrich my life at some point in the future!

Due to the revolution in electronic publishing, I’m beginning to realize that, in some cases, it may be easier to acquire electronic versions of a book than the physical artifact.  This is especially true for authors relatively new to me, but who lived and died more than half-a-century ago.  Awhile back, my wife found free e-books for me by such authors as E. F. Benson, Wilkie Collins, G. K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, and Jules Verne.  On this trip, I resolved to save my back, and reduce our packing, by reading at least one of those novels. 

Some books I've picked up, so far.
(Again, this is me, being restrained). 

I’ve found reading an e-book different from reading a physical book.  I have yet to get comfortable with Kindle for my Mac.  I’ve found it difficult to fall asleep when I’m reading on my laptop.  (Not that I only pick up a book to fall asleep, but reading a good book tends to relax me in the evening).  I’m currently reading The Blotting Book, a novel by E. F. Benson.  I might never have purchased a trade paperback of this particular title online, and I’d probably never have found it in a bookstore.  It’s rare enough to find one of his “Mapp & Lucia” titles on the shelf, let alone anything else from this prolific author, despite how many books he wrote during his life.  This mystery was published a dozen years before Queen Lucia, the first installment of the saga for which he is best remembered, when E. F. Benson was younger than me.  By then, he had already published over twenty novels.  If only The Blotting Book wasn’t keeping me up so late at night!

At this point, I’m enjoying not only the novel, but also (for the most part) the process of learning to read an e-book.  While I cannot conceive of dispensing entirely with real, physical books, I have to admit that it’d be nice to have more space in my house for other things.  (Perhaps, every great once in a while, even a guest or two).  In a house filled with so many books, the idea of reducing the physical space they take up, as well as making the rooms easier to clean, is looking increasingly attractive.

Then again, if this effort to curb my addiction fails, I suppose I could always start up a library.

Dragon Dave

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