A discussion in the OnTheSide Slack community was prompted by a post by Sam King about getting rid (or keeping hold) of physical media like CDs and DVDs. The discussion also turned to books with some members getting rid of books after reading them but I really struggle to do so. I started rambling on the thread but decided it might be a good subject for a blog post, so here we are.
Like everyone, I went through a phase of loving ebooks. I loved being able to carry loads of books around saved on my Kindle but after a while I started to feel like something was lost. Every book had the same typography, the same layout and (obviously) they all weighed the same regardless of the size of the book.
I realised there was a whole part of the reading experience I was losing out on by reading on Kindle. I longed for the feel of the paper, the smell of the ink, using old train tickets as bookmarks and seeing that bookmark gradually move from the front cover to the back as I made progress. The convenience of the Kindle was outweighed by the need for the tactile experience.
Another aspect is the type of books I own. I have many comics and graphic novels but I also own lots of 'Art of...' books and books about animation or film-making. In my opinion, these sorts of books just don't translate well to digital. I read them cover-to-cover when I first get them but after that, part of the fun is randomly flipping through the pages and seeing what catches your eye.
This is one of the main reasons why I don't get rid of books. Though some may sit on a shelf untouched for a few years, they will get looked at again so I keep them around for such occasions.
Books are a story
Another reason I like keeping hold of books is they tell a story of their own, as an object. Sometimes it's as obvious as a book looking all tattered and dog-eared after years of use or a book has something transcribed on the inside cover which makes it unique to any other copy of that book in existence. Sometimes, it can be a bit less obvious and far more personal.
In his recent post Why I miss the limitations of CD players, Mike Street writes:
There is the album that got me round my paper round, the first song I learnt on guitar and the first one I played on piano. There are songs that were there for my first love, my early childhood when Dad was in charge of the stereo and even the tracks my brother had on repeat in his Metro to look "hard".
I definitely have a similar feeling about music but I feel the same way about books.
There's the copy of Hilda and the Troll I bought at Thought Bubble a few years ago and manged to get signed by Luke Pearson. He drew a little sketch for our eldest son, who then promptly decided to colour in.
There are the copies of The Lord of the Rings which belonged to my late father-in-law. I keep them in the hope that some day, one of my kids will love the books as much as I do and I can pass them down.
There are the copies of The Art of the Lion King and Cracking Animation: The Aardman Book of 3-D Animation I got some time around '94. I poured over these books, dreaming of one day being an animator (sadly that didn't pan out) but I think these books are what got me interested in the process of making films.
There's How to Draw the Marvel Way which my brother bought some time in the 90s and has found its way into my collection. I remember laying under the light of the Christmas tree learning how to draw superheroes. Sitting by the tree with a book or two is something I still do to this day.
I could literally go on... and on... and on...
I can look at most, if not all, of my books and to me there'll be a memory or some other meaning assigned which is why I struggle to get rid of them. They're somehow a part of me, bound together.