Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stripping Down (part one)

Submitted by Victor

No.. it's not that kind of post.  Get your head out of the gutter!

What I'm talking about it stripping down and streamlining one's life.  Reducing the clutter.

This has been on my mind increasingly over the past few months and lately it's directly intersected with the realm of entertainment, including reading and writing.  Specifically, I wonder if we NEED to have all of these books, DVD's, comics, CD's etc in our physical possession. 

We are pretty close to realizing all-digital experience.  For me, it started with my music collection.  I digitized it years ago and haven't seen one of my actual CD's since (I've got upward of 500 CD's).  I used to love putting the CD's on shelves in my media room and just LOOKING at them.  I loved seeing the vast collection.  But... I haven't seen those CD's in years.  And I have to say, I don't miss them even remotely.  I have all my music on my computer and my Ipod, every single song is available to me at a moment's notice.

A good friend of mine is in the process of setting up a home media server at his house, with one central computer that holds all the music and photos, and allows for the digitization of DVD's, and the recording of TV shows.  And then through his home network, any computer or XBOX can access any of that media content in any room, and even remotely through the internet.  If you have enough hard drive space, ALL of your movies, CD's and photos can be captured digitally, allowing you to dispense with having your physical DVD's or CD's take up any space. 

Likewise, I've discovered digital versions of my entire comic book collection.  As much as I have always loved looking at the physical comics, and flipping through my longboxes, I have to say that the experience of reading the comics on my laptop computer (on a screen that's actually significantly bigger than a comic book) is a superior experience.  I've been looking askance at my comic book collection lately, which is taking up a lot of space in my "library", and wondering if it's time to pack them up and put them in storage, or more extreme yet, SELL them all.

So now we come to where this intersects with this blog's primary focus, books.  I love my books.  More than CD's or DVD's or comics, I love seeing my book collection on my shelves.  I love seeing entire series with matching covers all lined up.  But I've got a lot of books (not as many as SOME members of Humble Fiction Cafe, you know who you are), and unless I find room for more bookcases, I'm going to have to start going two deep on some shelves.  And that, of course, is bringing me to the question:

Is it time to get rid of my book collection?

Again, make no mistake.  I love my books.  But the allure of streamlining and no longer having to own and store and haul hundreds of books is becoming almost too tempting to ignore.

The recent advent of book-readers like the Amazon Kindle is making the need for having a physical book in your hands almost obsolete.  That technology isn't entirely there yet, but it's close.  And for that matter, reading a book on my laptop isn't the headache it once would have been.  I've already got dozens of great free books that publishers have made available and they are releasing more and more free e-books every day.

One of the rationales for owning and collecting so many books is to be able to have them at one's fingertips should one suddenly need to read them or flip through them.  Or perhaps because of the fear that if we don't keep this copy, that we might never see another copy of it again.  These were all reasonable concerns back in the day, but now, thanks to EBay and Amazon and all the myriad online booksellers, I challenge you to go to any book in your collection and not be able to find a copy available online.  If you REALLY need a book, it can be in your hands overnight.

And if the internet still scares you, there's always the library.  With its system of inter-library book loaning, there's hardly any book that's not available to you with only a minimal wait. For FREE!

So DO we need to own books (or any media for that matter)?  If, like me, you're about at overload with clutter and STUFF, the thought of totally streamlining and going all-digital with one's media collection is so so so tempting.  As I've found with my CD collection, I ultimately don't miss SEEING them.

So where does this lead for those of us that desire to CREATE content?  I'll discuss that in part two later this week.


C. Sandlin said...

Just out of curiousity, how do you feel about rebuying existing content, such as books and DVDs that you already own? What about being able to hand down books, etc, which may not (but may) be as easy with electronic media?

Dinky said...

Ya' know, I had the same dilemma about nine or ten years ago. I was broke. As in flat broke. No money for food, much less the house note or any bills. I packed up almost every book (the only ones I kept were very special gifts from loved ones) and every CD I owned and took them all to Half Price Books and sold them. People I knew kept saying, "Don't do it, Half Price won't pay you enough to make it worthwhile." I learned two things that day. If I'm hungry enough, I'll sell almost anything (as in not my body or parts thereof, though I did try to sell my hair once), and if I walk in the door of Half Price Books with boxes and boxes and boxes of books, I will walk out with enough money to buy groceries.

I don't have a laptop or a Kindle right now, but I plan to have a laptop in the next week and a computer in the next couple of months. Then I can read all the stuff I can download (again) from Wowio. It's just too hard to read very much while sitting at a computer desk, but I downloaded a bunch to help my friends get paid. The downloads are free, but the writers get paid a small sum from the advertisers on the site. (Y'all might want to check it out.)

Also, I really like that I can see episodes of the TV shows I like online. Since our house got trashed in the flood, and our TV and DVR with it, we haven't seen many of our regular TV shows. But it's ok because we can find them online, either on the sites of the networks that run the shows or on sites like Veoh.

Anyway, the storm did a lot of our de-cluttering for us. We've made a commitment to not reintroduce clutter to our home, whenever we have one again. Besides, I believe it's our God-given responsibility to act as the planet's custodians. I feel better about not causing any more trees, ink, energy (to run the presses), fuel (for the delivery trucks), etc to be sacrificed to our habit of cluttering up our lives with books, magazines, and newspapers, when we can get it all online.

Along the same vein, we don't want to replace our old furniture with particleboard junk that will fall apart and have to be replaced in a few years. That's partly because of the expense, and partly to keep it from ending up in the landfill. We plan to buy as much solid steel or wood furniture as we can, but not slow-growing hardwoods. More like pine, which is more readily renewable.

Anyway, less is more. So I'll shut up now. Better late than never.

Em's end said...

I am glad to find a fellow book lover. Please don't give up your collection. Whenever you feel like you should, remember these things ... there's nothing like the smell of a book, the snap it makes as it closes, the whisper the pages make as they turn, the weight of all its words, and the comfort of holding it in your hands.

I really enjoyed this post!