Return of the Books

Well, the new wood floor was installed in my library and it is gorgeous. Several things I noticed, however:  my desk chair rolls so much better even with a new protector on the floor, dust bunnies seem to be attracted to this room from all over the house, and the dogs can’t get enough purchase on the floor to jump into the chair by the window where they like to sit and watch the world go by. But my bookshelves are still relatively naked and I have about three dozen boxes of books and tchochkies in the next room waiting for me to bring them back into the library and empty their contents into the bare bookshelves.

I started slowly restoring the books and, rather than worrying about whether I duplicated the scheme that was so familiar to me in the past, I decided to undertake an entirely different arrangement. My first idea was to abandon the placement of used mass-market paperbacks in the back rows and instead to bring them all together in a single cabinet with three shelves. I moved all the black Penguin editions into the bedroom where I had a large open shelf in the black armoire. I actually considered whether I might not have enough books to fill the shelves but I quickly came to my senses.

One thing that is causing me to pause is how well I have taken to the iPad for reading books. While I was filing all those classic Penguin editions I realized that so many of them, notwithstanding the translations, were readily available in a format for my iPad. Think of all the shelf-space I would free-up if I were to replace those books with digital editions. Think of all the money I spent on those books through the years. Think of how many times I packed them into boxes, moved across town or across the country, stacked them into new shelves, only to move again after a few years. Maybe the best answer is to just read the damn books!

However, the Book Exchange would probably love the addition of a neat pile of Penguin Classics. I’ll have to think on that one:  it’s different giving away the books before I have read them even though I make a habit of giving away the books after I have read them. I would give them the unread Signet editions from the ’60s but even they won’t take books that old.

2 responses

  1. I seriously thought about going digital a few years ago. I even started buying books from amazon for the PC edition of the kindle. I am in India so the digital editions are cheaper, even after factoring in the raising dollar-rupee exchange rate. Plus, space is at a premium in this country, so anything more than 30-40 paperback books is a straight no-no.

    As the days turned into months and the months into years; I came to the conclusion that reading from a laptop is not the best way to read books. Here are two reasons why:

    Dropping a paperback from 3 feet does not do anything to a paperback.
    Paperbacks can be shared with other people.
    A laptop screen has a backlight that does nothing to aid night-time reading.

    I did give serious thought to buying a kindle, they do ship to India, and the device is priced about the same as 10 paperbacks. The main advantage being that it does not have a backlight to worry about. But then I kept thinking about scratches to the screen.

    I tend to keep some books for a long time. ‘Snow falling on cedars’ by David Guterson for example, has been on my shelf for more than 4-5 years. I keep shifting houses as my job takes me from one city to another, so yes, it is a pain.

    I have been trying to read “The Recognitions”, on the amazon kindle cloud reader, using a laptop, but it is tough. I really did not have a choice because the India paperback editions were twice the cost of the kindle edition. I will probably buy a kindle or a tablet once my current laptop stops working or breaks down. But that would probably take a few years from now.

    On the other hand, the paperback penguin classics version of “the grapes of wrath” is something that I can read every evening in bed and forget about the mundane problems of my workday. Soft lights and a good novel is therapy. Paperbacks help me get good sleep every night and no electronic back-lit gadget is ever going to match that.


    • I have previously commented that I read digital editions on my Palm Pilot, then my iPod, and now my iPad. Along the way I have always had books on my Macintosh and with the (now) 24 inch screen, I can get the whole page with an increase in font size to assist my failing eyes. But I have found the iPad almost perfect for reading: larger size, some flexibility in the format and theme, and plenty of room to make the font larger than the original … and backlit!

      But I only read real books in bed at night (the iPad is usually in a docking station on my desk where it stays fully charged and at a usable viewing angle).

      My neighbor just bought a new Nook which has a light and she loves it but she only uses it to read (I use my iPad more for other tasks than for reading and Angry Birds) and she wants to keep it small and light to carry in her purse.

      I don’t think I would have considered the replacement of real books with digital editions if it hadn’t been for the iPad. By the way, the ubiquity of the EPUB format is making “free” books for the iPad fairly easy to find (mostly in public domain) and with the addition of Calibre on my Mac I can store all my books, convert them into any format, and even automatically load them into iTunes for downloading to my iPad.

      I am retired, aging rapidly, and have just a little house here in a planned community where you are either an active senior or waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I consider reading a vital activity so my brain stays sharp enough to cut butter that has been left out on the counter over night.

      Based on the number of books I have yet to read on my own bookshelves, I figure I’ll live another 35 years at a minimum, and that doesn’t count the digital editions.

      I have about a thousand unread books in this little house and, like you, space is a consideration. Then again, if I had fewer books on my shelves, would it matter?


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