October 13, 2016

Are Dead-Tree Books once again a measure of wealth?

Just to be clear, NOT where I grew up.

I grew up in a house full of books.
As an avid reader, this just seemed like a reasonable thing to me. As I grew to adulthood, I occasionally encountered houses that had few books - both my grandparent's homes were like that. It seemed odd, but since I was rarely staying long and usually travelled with my own stash, the lack never really impacted me much.

Not here either!
My house has always been full of bookcases overflowing, books piled on tables, next to the bed, even stacked on the back of the toilet.

Fast forward to the present. Just moved my mom in with us after my dad died in early September. We were in process of moving them both when he passed away pretty suddenly. He and Momma had been in the process of trying to sort through a lifetime of books to decide what was moved and what was donated. I now have a bedroom in this house filled to the ceiling with boxes, and a good number of those boxes are full of books. We moved four bookcases as well. Looking at the number of books and bookcases I am struck by the staggering amount of square footage that is consumed by printed books. Even in tall bookcases, it requires yard after yard of wallspace. Creatively arranging furnishings away from the walls into islands in the middle of the room to allow access to all those books.

Most places I have lived in recent years were far from the top of the list in price per square foot for housing, but it certainly is not near the bottom. If you live in a place with a healthy economy, chances are good you are dedicating a significant percentage of your income to floorspace to house you and your stuff. If you are like me, and on a limited income, then that floorspace becomes even more dear since there is less of it.
Just substitute the kids for dogs...

The advent of e-books have been a huge boon to bibliophiles like myself, they tend to be cheaper than dead-tree versions and they take up no floorspace! They lack the tactile satisfaction of a physical tome, and are generally pretty problematic for sharing, but you can keep your entire library on a pocket computer (They really should not be called smart phones since their telephonic function is generally a poorly executed afterthought. They are better at taking photos than at voice transmission.)

I suspect we are entering a time very soon when once again the library full of physical books will be a conspicuous luxury reserved for the wealthy and/or the eccentric. In the meantime, you will be able to find me buried under boxes of books trying to figure out where the heck to put them all!

The good news here is that libraries become even more relevant as we transition from buildings full of books to electronic archives of knowledge that will need to be curated, sorted, and maintained. And having a central repository that can be accessed remotely without the need for filling one's own electronic floorspace will also be in demand. Having those sorts of repositories that are not privately owned will be essential to ensure the continued free access to knowledge for everyone. Would love to hear from my librarian friends on whether I am completely off the beam here or not.

1 comment:

Rhianon Jameson said...

I'm so sorry for your loss and for that of your whole family. I agree with every word on books. I have my old favorites.