Print Books: Purge or Hoard?

Although I love my print books, e-readers, in one form or another, have become my primary reading device over the last few years. I barely touch my print books, although they are still beautiful and important to me. But they sit on my bookshelf as a decorative and intellectual art form… When I voiced my reluctance to ship my books, one of my editors, horror-stricken, said: “You have to take your books with you! I mean, they are books. They are so important!” The book lover in me didn’t disagree, but the practical side of me did… In the end, I decided to leave 80 percent of the books behind, donating them to bookstores and even throwing some old, tattered volumes in the garbage. Readers, what would you have done? (


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Old news. Familiar question. Sort of…

I just returned from the Writer’s Digest Conference where the question of jettisoning or clinging to print collections came up several times. No consensus, but an interesting question.

This winter/spring is “out with the old, in with the new” time for me, so I’m lightening my load in as many ways as I can. My 2012 word-of-the-year? Agile. I’ll revisit this in the months ahead. Am I throwing too much too fast for you to follow my line of reasoning? Yes, I am. Concept still jelling. Actually the concept and the conviction have jelled, but I’m still sorting through how to explain my mission. Dump nonessential baggage and travel light. Simplify. Cut the crap. Chase the dream… As you can see, I’m still in beta on this!

Nick Bilton‘s July 27 post, “Print Books: Should They Stay or Should They Go?” cuts right to the chase, and I suspect that his decision to pare print down to 20% of his collection will be an increasingly common phenomenon.

I’m not there. I like digital, but I’m a sucker for ink and paper and bindings. I’m passionate about marginalia-filled white space and flattened relics which tumble out of books instantly transporting us back to an orange poppy in Big Sur or a teenage romance. I’m not ready to swap my bookshelves and floor/windowsill/desk stacks for a slim digital facsimile. Not yet. Purge I will, but not the books. Not now.

What about you? Do you feel the urge to purge?

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6 Comments to “Print Books: Purge or Hoard?”

  1. Tia Robertson says:

    I am devoted to books with a spine. I can’t even let go of my paperbacks. While I admit to having purchased a few books through the app store for convenience, the ones I really like I bought the actual book from B&N later. As much as I love my macbook and other iproducts, I will never not love the beauty of a book. Finding one that I have read before on a shelf and reading passages that remind me of a moment, remembering lessons and checking in old fictional friends and letting them inspire again. Change is inevitable but respect for the past makes us students.

  2. virtualDavis says:

    Great comment, Tia! I’m especially compelled by this: “While I admit to having purchased a few books through the app store for
    convenience, the ones I really like I bought the actual book from
    B&N later.” I totally agree and consider this one of the most exciting aspect of multimodal storytelling. Not only do we have the opportunity to *read* texts according to the ideal format/price for that specific work, we also have the opportunity to dilate our experience by revisiting the work in diverse ways. Reading a book digitally and in print, listening to the audio book, immersing ourselves in the enhanced ebook with audio/video and interactive elements, playing the video game, and/or watching a film are all fundamentally and profoundly different experiences even if the core text is identical. Amazing opportunities unfold! Exciting times to be a storyteller. And even MORE exciting times to be a reader/audience/student… Thanks for chiming in, Tia. “Change is inevitable but respect for the past makes us students.” Amen!

  3. I could never purge my books. I am a terrible book owner, I always underline and scribble notes in the margins. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction. Every one of my books as been desecrated by my pen/pencil in one form or another. I often pull one from the shelves that I haven’t touched in years just to flip through the pages to see what I found important enough to underline.  You can’t underline or scribble notes in the margins of a kindle (that I know of, though I am sure there’s an app for that!). I find the idea of personal libraries around the world disappearing to be heartbreaking! The thought of never smelling an old book brings tears to my eyes. Traditionalist, yes. Purge, never. :) 

  4. virtualDavis says:

    I’ll add you to the marginalia fan club, Terra! I’ve been using Kindle Fire and iPad for ebooks, and both TOTALLY frustrate my marginalia tendencies. Digital highlight? Digital notes? Ugh! Some geeky marginalia fans must exist, right? I sure hope they can come up with something of good before books are all are “born again”…

  5. I’m still waiting for the bundle. Not only do I hoard books I have some books in print, audio and digital. Ugh. Give up books? NEVER!

  6. virtualDavis says:

    As you know, I’ve been beating the bundle, bundle, bundle drum roll for some time now. And perhaps, maybe, possibly it’s finally happening! Thanks for the recent bundling links, Amy. You ready to trade the Tamarindo surf scene for the Adirondack surf scene? Tell Brian that Lake Champlain is like glass today and already warmer than 40 degrees…

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