Monday, January 3, 2011

Detachment From The Physical

I won't bury the lede: I'm starting the transition away from physical books.

Starting.  And I'm not sure what the path will look like for a while.  I've been a life-long bookworm, with some of my fondest childhood memories being of trekking back and forth from the various local libraries that my family frequented.  One of the main failings that the city of Brea, where I spent my 6th grade through high school years, is it's sad branch of the OC Library system.  We have more square feet of bookstore in Brea than library.  We've built parks, community centers, and housing tracts without putting money into having a better library with better staffing, hours, and accessibility.  Ok, my library rant isn't the point here.  The point is, books are one of the main lenses through which I view the world.  "I read a book about..." is, I assume, one of the more annoying things I say in conversations.

Since I transitioned to buying books, they've become ... sacred objects.  They're not just something I consume, they've become something that I have emotional ties to.  A book invokes memories of the times I've read it, good times and bad.  A book reminds me of the times I've shared it with others.  My sister reading A Spell For Chameleon.  My brother telling me that he finally read it only after I left it on his pillow.

A Spell for Chameleon (Xanth, Book 1)

My sibs tearing through Ender's Game after I pushed it on them.

Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1)

One of the first books my brother shared with me, The Botany of Desire.

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

I haven't lived with my mother for years, but I still have tons of books in her garage (sorry Moms, I'm working on it...).

But as I look back, books didn't start out as sacred objects.  I loved L. Frank Baum's Oz series as a kid, but I never owned a copy of any but the first book.  All the others were borrowed (quickly) from the the University Heights library when we lived in the suburbs of Cleveland.  My parents might have been the original music pirates when they (allegedly) borrowed LPs and ripped them to ... Reel to Reel.  In retrospect, I guess we were an audiobook family from way back as well.

These objects add clutter to my life.  That's the bottom line.  I love the content, but I don't need the objects to enjoy the content.  So what's the alternative?  I suppose I could buy eBooks versions of what I own.  But it kind of sucks to buy copies of things I already own in another format.

I guess I let go of my compact disks a few years ago.  My entire collection is mp3 now.  Can I go electronic for everything?  Well, maybe not for everything.  And I do like the experience of reading paper versions.  But FedEx Office will cut the binding off a book for $1.50.  And I own a duplex-scanner with document feeder for easy PDF creation.  And tablets are bound to come down in price.

I've already done this with a few books I own.  The ones I would buy copies of to give away.  Now I send a PDF and ask the person to buy a copy if they feel moved to keep the author employed.  I don't know if this will become a huge thing in my life, but we'll see.

But really, it's not about the technology.  It's about separating the emotions that the object evokes from the object.  Maybe I'll have a separate blog to document memories and emotions tied with books.  Or other object.  Or maybe I'll do that here. :-)

What are the things in your life that you have emotional attachements to?  Is there a way for you to preserve core of the bonds without having the object clutter your life?

No comments:

Post a Comment