Out of the hundreds of books on my shelves, I wonder which ones I’ll ever read again. Over the remainder of my life, will I re-read more pages cumulatively, or travel more miles with these books in boxes? Will I re-read entire books more frequently than I rearrange them in their cases? Damn, they’re so heavy. I have visions of slowly migrating every bound volume in this collection over to a light, mobile e-reader. One by one they will evaporate into weightless bits, and I shall gradually reclaim space in my small home from these leafy bricks. It’s tempting, and yet I’ll never actually do it.
I’m perfectly happy letting my music and movies reside in those remote data centers we affectionately call clouds. As with books, I’m tired of dragging various forms of media and packaging around with me from hovel to hovel. And I don’t want to keep up anymore with the latest devices to play these objects in, or all the components that attach to those objects. I’ve made a deal in which that stuff lives somewhere other than where I live, and I borrow it when I need it. I can’t feel the same about books. And it’s not all that hogwash that people spout when they say they need the tactility of the pages; when they talk about needing to hold this thing open in front of them. Do these people also miss washboards and shoeing their horses? No, the material object is immaterial. My reluctance to disappearing my books – and I grant how suspicious this sounds – is that I don’t want to be left without them if for whatever reason…under whatever circumstance…the invisible cord that connects me to the place where all knowledge resides is ever snipped. I don’t want to accidentally lose the ability to access them, and I certainly don’t want them intentionally taken hostage.
So the next time I move, my biceps will get another rare workout and my back will end up sore from improperly lifting dozens of boxes of thousands of pages. But at least I’ll be comforted knowing I can go back to them whenever I want, even if I never do.