In which I briefly touch upon why I don’t like owning books.
I am not a voracious reader and am fairly disorganized (actually I thrive on chaos)
My parents are avid readers and collectors of books. We always had an entire room filled with books, in each house we moved to. (And we moved quite often). Everytime, we would get to pack and unpack all these books. Always look for homes with an extra bedroom or an office that could house all the books we carried. Now, almost all those books are gone. Some donated to a public library, some to a new library at an orphanage and most recently, a year ago, some more to a university library, after their entire library was totally ravaged and wasted in a flood.
I am sure I have inherited some of those genes – I still love books, though only when they are kept in libraries. Childhood memories of packing and unpacking, dusting and rearranging books have left me with a rather strong preference for libraries.
I love libraries, as long as I don’t have to maintain them. Besides there is always an element of surprise in libraries – entering one you never know what you will find. I love libraries, as they offer that silent space in my life. I can put stuff (books/videos/audios) “on hold” and not bother looking for, reading reviews and buying them. Just wait for a sweet little email to inform me, that someone actually took the trouble to order and keep it ready for me, to come pick it up.
Not maintaining a library at home means no bookkeeping. Keeping track of books lent or borrowed can test a lot of friendships. Then of course there is the issue of the unwashed masses that congregate at dinners or parties and utter the most inane things about the books on your bookshelf. (I realize bookshelves serve as display cases in many homes or as conversation starters, but sometimes I really don’t want to be explaining why I have Moshe Dayan’s autobiography next to Banker to the Poor… or that I am not a Zionist or worse, who Dayan is).
There is also the cost of ownership argument. What is the price of owning a book? Yes, that book you bought on Amazon for a dollar fifty so you would qualify for free shipping. Does it cost you just that? Not really. You will need to find space for it in your bookcase, pack, unpack, organize and lug it around each time you move. It will affect usable space in your house or your housing options, because bookshelves take up prime real estate – you are not going to put that bookshelf next to the sunny window or that musty closet, are you? And I am not even talking about hardcovers here.
[old draft from 10/25/2005.]