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Throwing away books

Last Friday's “Interesting posts on writing” by jongibbs has an excellent post by writerjenn called Books as objects that discussed the human urge to own things and why ebooks would not satisfy that itch.

One reason I love the idea of ebooks, though, is the flip side of that argument. Owning a book only in "e" form means I don't need to find a way to discard those books that I own but longer want (or in some cases, never wanted). In spite of today's subject line, I never actually throw books into the trash. I either take them to a used bookstore (which requires real effort, so I seldom do it) or I donate them.

And because it requires so little effort, my favored method of donating books is to wait for a charity to call me looking for donations that I can leave on my porch, and ask, "Do you take books?" The answer most recently was yes, and so I am culling my shelves. It intrigued me, in light of Friday's reading, to consider what made me toss a book into the donation box and what made me keep it on my still-crowded shelves. Generally, the books I kept fell into these categories:

1) Books signed by the author (or that I hope to get signed by the author). There are generally either by personal friends or writers I see at conventions and still admire (there are a tiny number of writers I see at conventions whose work I admire but I no longer desire to own their books because they are so bad at hiding their egos I don't want any reminder of them)

2) Books I loved when I was younger. These include old Andre Nortons, mostly purchased used, a few classics like Mark Twain and Jane Austen, and the almost the entire oeuvre of Georgette Heyer.

3) Books I hope my kids might want to read. Neither my son or my daughter has gotten into e-reading, at least so far. I have hope my son might get into it, but my daughter won't bite until such time as it is no longer in any way geeky to be seen reading on a Kindle or a Nook. Ergo, if I want them to read a book, right now it needs to be printed.

And of course, my husband lives here, too, so he had a veto over any deportation, but in fact, there were very few books he saved because, as he said, if he really wanted to read it again, he would get in on his Kindle (yes! a convert!).

It's funny, because I recently actually read a printed book, the first in over a year. I had bought the hardback ages ago and wanted to read it but didn't want to pay for a Kindle copy. I found that there's really not than much difference in the reading experience except in print I needed to keep a bookmark handy, and when I came to a word I didn't know, it frustrated me not to be able to put my finger on that word to get a definition.

And of course, as I tossed a book into the box, I was aware of the irony that, in donating it to be sold for pennies on the original dollar, there was nothing better I could do for the author because used bookstore are a good way to acquire new readers. I'm also aware that I can't donate ebooks, but since ebooks offer the "free sample" feature they already have a built-in way for authors to find new readers.

I'm wondering how everyone else deals with book overflow, so I created a poll to find out!

Poll #1609246 Rate yourself as a book hoarder

As far as print books, the following describes me best:

I never, ever throw away, sell, or discard a book; books are sacred objects
I only dispose of books I actively disliked
I try to find a new home for books I know I'll never reread again
I rarely re-read books so I tend to sell them or give them away most of the time
Once I've read a book, I really don't see a need to keep it around
Some other category that I will describe in a comment

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( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 22nd, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link, Karen :)
Aug. 22nd, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)
No prob. I love your Friday posts!
Aug. 22nd, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC)
One thing about eBooks you highlighted. You can't give them to someone else, so outside of the short sample they won't live on in another person's hands. That could mean more money for the author --more people will buy the eBook rather than purchase a used copy-- but I could also see piracy being more prevalent as well.

The fact of the matter is that it's easier to pirate electronic copies than a physical hard copy, and no DRM on the planet is good enough to restrain determined pirates for long. (This is also why I chuckle at the concept of cloud computing; the measures involved to keep your personal stuff secure are going to be a bit more expensive than people realize.)

However, with eBooks the concept of a book "disappearing" after a print run goes out the window. An eBook will never go away, and if publishers tie this into POD, so much the better for the non-eBook readers.
Aug. 22nd, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
An important point to remember about piracy is that NO publishing an ebook doesn't stop it. There are robot scanners than can turn a print book into a digital book in minutes. J.K. Rowling found that out the hard way.

I think what digital will do is to force publishers to maintain an archive in digital form (most likely XML) that can be output in whatever form is needed, including POD. I personally don't care for the concept of cloud computing. I'm not saying it won't happen, just that I don't like the idea.
Aug. 22nd, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but those things ain't cheap. A book on the level of HP or The DaVinci Code is the only way people will shill out for such a device.
Aug. 22nd, 2010 09:51 pm (UTC)
That assumes the pirates OWN the device. If you're going to steal intellectual property, would you have any qualms about using a machine like that at work?

What I'd really like to know if how bad piracy hurts authors. The most pirated books almost always have the best sales, and I wonder if they're pirated solely because they're popular or whether being pirated actually helps their popularity in some way.
Aug. 22nd, 2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
That, I have no idea. To the non-bestselling authors, however, I'd have to imagine it would hurt. There simply aren't as many sales to compensate for the piracy.
Aug. 22nd, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
Except how many people would buy the book but pirate it instead? I just have trouble with the idea that people who download pirated copies of books are people who would otherwise be paying for that book. I think a huge percentage of the time they download only because its free. It's not a matter of free but ill illegal or legal but pay; it's a matter of free or nothing.

It's still wrong and illegal, but I really don't thing every copy pirated is money lost from sales.
Aug. 22nd, 2010 11:34 pm (UTC)
I have a lot of trouble getting rid of books >
Aug. 23rd, 2010 12:53 am (UTC)
I can see that from your poll answer. It is something of an affliction, over time, but it could be worse. You could collect taxidermy samples or something like that. -)
Aug. 23rd, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
It's true. There are worse things to have an attachment to than books.
Aug. 23rd, 2010 05:42 am (UTC)
I've never thrown a book away in my life (I just turned 50). And not only do I buy them, I also take books that other people don't want. I do share them, if someone else sees one that they really want to get into. Lately I have been toying with the idea of donating.

I love being surrounded by them and reliving their stories. I know I sound strange, and that's okay. :)

(The only time I've ever regretted this behavior is when I move. Gah.)
Aug. 23rd, 2010 11:46 am (UTC)
My mother taught me that only Nazis throw books in the trash. :) She used to mail cartons of books when we moved because it was cheaper than what the overs charged,
Aug. 25th, 2010 08:08 am (UTC)
I like that! (about Nazis) Haha.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 28th, 2010 12:16 am (UTC)
But sooner or later you have to make decisions about whether you're going to read new books or reread old ones. There's a finite number of hours in the day but an infinite number of books!
Aug. 27th, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
If I dislike a book, I don't like throwing it away because it is a book, after all, but I don't like giving it away because it would spread the infectious meme.

A few years ago I was moving to China and had to cull half my books (the other half are in my parents' basement). That took answering some hard questions. Will I really read it again? Will I need it as a primary sourse someday? Is it a classic, or something for my kids to read someday?

My friends who helped me move them got books, that's for sure.
Aug. 28th, 2010 12:15 am (UTC)
Moving is a time for decisions, all right-- especially if you're moving far away. Interesting that you see a disliked book as a bad thing. Most of the time I tend to see it as just not to my taste-- like peanut butter and chocolate. Most people love that combination, but not me.

Aug. 28th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
I should have been more specific. I'm more inclined to say a novel is a matter of taste, but when it comes to nonfiction, I wouldn't give anyone a "scholarly" book if the research was shoddy or the premises faulty.
Aug. 28th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, I can see that. Sort of like the difference between food that doesn't taste good to you and food you know to be tainted.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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