Up Against The Wall: Why I'm Keeping My Print Books

by Sean Adams

While planning his move from New York to San Francisco, New York Times Lead Bits Blogger Nick Bilton had an important decision to make: should he pay to ship his enormous collection of print books across the country when he does most of his reading on an e-reader? The answer, to me, seemed to be clearly to be “Yeah, duh! How could you not bring your books?” But after thinking about a moment more, I realized that I didn’t understand where such a strong sentiment was coming from.

The e-reader vs. print debate is an annoying one because, like so many things that essentially come down to differences in personal preference, it is argued as if there is will eventually be some definitive we-solved-for-x answer. I’m in the faction of people that like to say, “We just like reading print books better” which actually translates to “We just like reading print books.” I’ve never read an entire book in its digital form, so the idea that I like reading books more in print than on an e-reader is ridiculous. Sure I’ve used display models in stores, and sure I didn’t particularly enjoy my experience. But then again, I hated wearing my glasses when I got them a year ago, and now I can do so many amazing things, like read the score when I watch Celtics games and sit more than three inches away from my computer screen while I write.

No, I think my true passion for print books comes from their secondary use as wall art. If it’s bad to judge a book by its cover I guess it’s worse to judge a book by its spine, but I guess that’s exactly what I’m doing. A wall with a bookcase against it is a wall I don’t need to hang a painting or a poster on to fill out the room. The spines – with their varied widths, heights, and colors – do the work of a painting. Bilton even describes his books as possessing the two qualities that make art, well, art: “beautiful and important to me.” While an ebook can certainly be beautiful and important to its reader, it cannot liven up a dull, empty area of your living space the way a print book can. So while I may not always need to read books in their printed form, I feel that I’ll always need books in their printed form around, to make my home feel like my home.

What about you? Are those lovely shelves worth the clutter and hassle of owning the books that fill them? Or would you just as soon throw them into the shredder?

Photo by Flickr member CarbonNYC. Used under a Creative Commons License.