I truly enjoy reading. A great book is an awesome way for me to relax, be entertained, or learn something life changing. I enjoy reading other peoples’ work much more than I do writing my own. And I like books. Or, at the very least, I enjoy the content that they contain. One of the few problems I’ve had with books is the space they occupy. At various times in my life, the physical collection of books I’ve owned has taken up shelves upon shelves (or later boxes upon boxes) of space. I don’t really bask in the aesthetics of a large library or book store, but I enjoy having access to my favorite books at a moments notice. Traveling and moving are the times when I typically notice the volume of books that come in and out of my life.
I enjoy reading but I’m not a big fan of clutter. For some reason, books were one of the last vestibules for me to give up when relentlessly evaluating the objects I own and store at my house. So, I decided to give away almost all the physical copies of books that I own. The mental decision was much easier when I realized what I enjoyed was the content in the text and not the bound collection of paper on my shelf. There are only a few books I really want to own and that I will constantly reread. For those, I have a special place that contains just a handful of books. I’ve also been slowly purchasing digital copies of many of my favorites over the years to complete my small collection. And I have a library card. Where I live, that is a pretty incredible, often underutilized, resource.
Battle of the E-Readers
I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve read textbooks, paperbacks, shorts, and hardbacks. And I’ve tried all the e-readers. I have used nooks, sonys, kindles (7 versions), ipads, windows tablets, and several different phones. I’ve tried or experimented with almost every type of e-reader on the market. The great news is that the technology is quite mature. The newest versions of e-readers are about as good as they can possibly get. I think the crossover point has occurred, not just in my mind, but in the physical manifestation of the technological hardware and software. I wanted to love e-books and readers from the beginning; but, initially the experience was inferior (1st Gen Kindle/PRS). Slow page turns, poor lighting, weak batteries, little content, and inconsistency were just a few of the things that plagued the first generation hardware. However, with the current tech, we have finally made it to the place where the reading experience is superior on a digital product.
I don’t really like unitaskers, but I’ve settled the debate and purchased a used Kindle Paperwhite. It’s only good for one thing: reading books. And I’m ok with that. Sure, we still have phones, tablets, and laptops- but for simple, distraction free reading, I still head straight towards the kindle. I remember getting quite excited when I bought the first popular e-reader: the $299 Sony PRS-505. It still remains one of the better looking and best built e-readers years after it stopped being produced. However, the slow page turns, small battery, and tiny library made it tough to love. But times have changed and now you can get an awesome e-reader shipped to your house for the price of a fancy meal. It is amazing.
Electronic books, and the way they can be accessed, have also come a long way over the years. Due to their small size, you can literally have access to any book you want to read in a few seconds. Think about that for a moment. 100,000+ books on your little device is seconds. Cloud access, portability across devices, inline citations, and shareable highlights, are just some of the most notable conveniences among digital books. I actually read more now due to the fact that I can get books instantaneously (and free preview chapters) the minute I hear or get excited about them. Even our local library has a huge selection of digital books available for instant download.
If I were to have any issue with digital books it would be the lack of a secondary market and the inconsistency with market pricing. I really like used books and I enjoy being able to pass them along when I finish reading them. I also like that very old books are often available for a few quarters at my local used book shop. These little inefficiencies of e-readers have been fulfilled by sketchy sites and google; however, it would be nice if there were legitimate options for unwanted e-books. This inconvenience might be made up for by the fact that there are tons of free books available for instant download and budding subscription services for avid readers. Plenty of classics can be quickly downloaded and stored for free and easy access as well.
The Gift of Books
Books have had a powerful influence in my life. In fact, there are several books that have dramatically changed my life. I think it is neat that a simple $10 gift can radically change the course of someone’s life if they will let it. That is why I still buy and give away lots of physical books. At some point, I’m sure I’ll be giving digital versions away but I still have many friends and family members who have yet to make the leap. So, for the time being, I’ll keep giving away physical copies.
I like used books. And, because the content is what I enjoy, I’m not very particular about an older copy- as long as you can easily read it. I really enjoyed the ‘used’ market features built into Amazon. While their shipping prices are a bit high, you can often get quality books for much less than the new price. Paperback Swap is another useful site to get books you might want to give as gifts. I have gotten plenty of books for free like, Your Money or Your Life, to give out as gifts. Giving books as gifts is a great way to help other people out even if you only have a few dollars to give.
We still read paper books to the kids. I suppose if I had any push-back about digital books, it would be that it is tough to have a nice, distraction-free children’s reading experience with the current generation of iPads and other tablets. So, we have plenty of children’s books. But, we still try to keep the books under control. We have one shelf that holds about 20 books and we strategically limit the number of books we own to that shelf. We get lots of books as gifts but we also pass along used ones to other couples with younger kids.
Kids love good libraries. Teach your kids early on about the concept and value that libraries hold. You don’t have to own all the books you want if you have access to thousands of new ones every day! Sure, own a few of your favorites, but go every few weeks and let your kids pick out some new ones to try. It is great for the community, your kids, and your wallet. Reading in America is an incredibly easy and inexpensive form of entertainment.
I like books. And I like to read. But the time has come for me to move closer into the 21st century, declutter and enjoy the benefits technology has brought to reading. Over time, I have given away, swapped, or sold all but a few books in my physical library. I thought I would miss the dusty books, but actually I’m enjoying the extra space and clutterlessness. And I’ve still got digital copies of my favorite books at my fingertips. So, read lots of good books, give away the ones you don’t need and enjoy all the glorious content that has been written by wonderful authors.