I’ve always loved books. Always read a lot through libraries, and bought a lot of books. As my father was often transferred, this sometimes ended up in a race where I would buy books and my mother would persuade me to give them away, and many of my favorite purchases (huge piles of comics, lots of other stuff including Agatha Christies, Perry Mason and Chase) would vanish between the times I would go to hostel and return for vacations at a new location where my father had next got transferred. Later, when I moved away from parental packing and disposal techniques, my collection became unwieldy enough for me to offer books free to friends and neighbors. But the overall trend has always been upwards.
Last year, I moved house. As I dusted and packed shelf after shelf of books, and later dusted and unpacked them, I had to admit to myself that I was rather over-dosed with books, split equally between fiction and non-fiction.
There are science fiction books, fantasy books, children/ YA books, historical romance, mystery, literary books, bestsellers, classics, anthologies, you name it. There are Hindi books and English books, and even a few in other languages I am trying to learn. There’s poetry. There are books on science, math, religion, philosophy, neurology, ageing, dementia, business and strategy,health, exercise, self-improvement, writing craft. References, too, dictionaries, thesaurus, reverse dictionary, grammar books. And more, but you get the point. It is said that there is no such thing as too many books, and I’ve always thought so too, but I had to admit (duster in hand) that though I was unwilling to part with my collection, I possessed many books I would not have bought had I known the quality and content of the book in advance. I also had to admit that I was unlikely to read or refer to most of my books in future–partly because I lacked the time and energy and partly because I thirsted for fresh books. I even discovered scores of books which I had not read (a plus point of relocation 🙂
(Here, BTW, is a collage of some of the book shelves I populated)
I’ve also found myself often at a loss for which books to carry along when I travel–I want to carry a whole bunch, but that’s not feasible, and looks a bit…greedy.
So around 8 months ago I decided to try out a few changes in my reading and acquisition approach (1) use libraries to read books and buy only books I felt I wanted to read again or that I felt I needed as reference (2) when buying a book, buy the ebook version (3) if a book was not available as an ebook, think and think again before buying the paper version.
I’ve stuck to that for most of the last 8-9 months. I’ve bought only around a dozen paper books, and the rest of my purchases have been e-books. I’ve done a lot of my reading by using libraries instead, or online stories/ articles. I’ve found that using libraries allows me to be more adventerous–I am less hesitant to try out a new author or read an introductory book on a new non-fiction topic. For many months now, I have used a Kindle, and also used my “Kindle for PC” app for a significant of my reading.
I must admit that, though my actions probably bode well for trees, for my wallet, and also my back (which protested all that dusting and lifting), I miss paper books–the smell, the feel, the weight, the physical satisfaction of turning pages–and as I don’t want to buy more paper books, I find myself standing in front of my bookshelves and easing out an old favorite to savor. It’s fun in a way, like meeting old friends and finding I still love them.