Friday, January 08, 2010

On Books and Trophies

My bookcases are overflowing.  I have boxes of books in a closet that I have not unpacked since the last move because I have no shelf space for them.  I acquire new books frequently.  I may have finally figured out why I have so many books.

While watching Dexter the other day, I was hit with an interesting insight, which may or may not be original.  Dex finds his way into a serial killer's house and notes the killer's collection of trophies.  These were award plaques hanging on a wall for various projects he had undertaken that correspond with and commemorate his kills.  If you watch Dexter, you will know that Dex has his own collection of trophies.  I thought about that while thinking about the Kindle and book piracy and music downloading.

I have zero interest in the Kindle or any other eBook reader.  To me, an eBook reader is about as exciting as a lump of coal.  I have always loved the tactile experience of reading: turning the pages, holding the book, appreciating the design, deciding if the font is a good choice, touching the paper.  Much of that disappears when a book is transformed into ones and zeros.  I think that sucks and it could well mean that the end of the world is upon us.  I feel the same way about music: I like to own the CD, not an inferior digital copy.

For some reason, I do not necessarily feel this way about movies or TV shows.  These have always been disposable to me.  Although I own some DVDs, I don't have an urge to collect them, unless they are absolute favourites, like Seinfeld, or are ludicrously cheap, like Strangers With Candy (the movie), which I bought for $1.99.

I have often wondered why I like to own books.  I rarely read library books and I rarely borrow books from others.  I like to own books.  Here's another curious fact: I rarely read books twice, though it has happened (Brave New World, for example). So, why do I own them?  Well, there I was watching Dexter and then it occurred to me that perhaps I get the same pleasure from having shelves of books as Dexter does from having a bunch of microscope slides with drops of blood.  Both are trophies.

I can look at my shelves and feel a certain sense of accomplishment, a certain sense of erudition (though that is arguable), and a certain sense of my own history from what I see lined up.  Of course, if that were truly the case, I ought to eliminate the books I attempted to read but stopped from boredom or frustration.   But, I suppose they are also part of my reading history.  There are, of course, those books I have acquired but never got around to reading.  Maybe someday, my pretties, maybe someday.


Deodand said...

I've decided against the Kindle as well. I do read library books, so $12 a year for unlimited reads can't really be beat. The only time I'd like to have a Kindle is when I'm reading some really thick, new book and my hands get tired from holding the spine open.

Kate said...

I think that trophies isn't too far from how I see them. I do honestly re-read books, though, and use them for reference. Example: "discussion" with husband about who wrote a particular poem. I wish that the earth-destroying petroleum engineer hadn't won...

I'm not about to pay for an eBook reader. I have the Barnes & Noble (free) program on my iPod Touch and it's nice enough, but it came with a few books free and reading The Last of the Mohicans on that thing is nearly impossible. I need to be able to see more than 2 sentences at a time. I need to be able to easily flip back a few pages or chapters. It's still highly inferior to a book that I can touch and smell.