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BTT: Ourselves on the Shelves? Or Is It About the Money, Honey?

April 14, 2011

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In a related question to last week’s–

I was reading the other day a quote from JFK Jr who said on the death of his mother, that she died surrounded by family, friends, and her books. Apparently, Jackie’s books were very much a part of HER, her personality, her sense of self.

Up until recently, people could browse your bookshelves and learn a lot about you–what your interests are, your range of topics, favorite authors, how much you read (or at least buy books).

More and more, though, this is changing. People aren’t buying books so much as borrowing them from the library. Or reading them on their e-readers or computers. There’s nothing PHYSICAL on the shelves to tell strangers in your home, for better or worse, who you ARE.

Do you think this is a good thing? Bad? Discuss!

I think that digital print, more than libraries, bothers me on this. People went to libraries long before everyone had the funds to purchase books upon books for his or her home collection. At some level, physical book displays are very much a class and status symbol, even if that is much more attainable than it once was. I read too much for my habit to have been bought, back in the day. I relied heavily on the library but thought nothing of not having books to show or lend.

That said, I think that, though there are incredible eco implications that go along with the e-readers, I do find that, as an observer, they annoy me. Not so much for the house display but because I’m nosy and want to know what other people are reading at the coffee shop, on the train and at the DMV.

Another funny reason is my son and future kid. I read books all of the time and I like for Kai to see me doing so. I don’t want him to think that I’m just on facebook on my phone or computer if I’m actually reading. It’s important for me that he see me reading actual books for inspiration.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2011 8:58 am

    I love being able to look at someone’s shelves and being able to gauge some sort of information there, but with the advent of ebooks, even my shelves would not reflect my interests as they once did. I think it’s a little sad that this is so, but I am just glad that people are still reading. You would be surprised with how many friends and acquaintances I have that just don’t read at all.

  2. April 14, 2011 1:52 pm

    Very good answer, it’s good for your son to see you with a book.

  3. April 14, 2011 2:08 pm

    It’s great that you want to set a good example for your kids. I never really thought about it too much but I suppose I must have seen my Mum reading a lot when I was younger and subconsciously this must have had a real affect on me.

  4. April 15, 2011 1:25 am

    It is too bad that an e-reader, which is deemed more of a personal item, doesn’t volunteer information like bookcases do. But if you think of it the other way, how often do you get invited to an acquaintance’s house, let alone spending time sizing up the book collection? I do have an interesting encounter at the coffee shop, where a stranger asked what I was reading, which, at the moment, was Anita Brookner’s Fraud. On another occasion, reading from my iPad only invited curious eyes and a bevy of questions on the gadget’s specifications. No interest in what I was reading.

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