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Why I no longer collect books

January 19, 2012

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UPDATE: I recently wrote a companion piece to this post, entitled “why libraries should collect books.”

Apologies in advance to the length of this post. The thoughts and ideas expressed below have been percolating in my head for the last dozen years or so, and it’s time to begin letting them out. Some recent breakfast reading–James Woods’s excellent New Yorker essay on his deceased father-in-law’s library–set the wheels in motion.

Let me begin by making a simple statement: I am a librarian who has no particular affection for the object commonly known as the book. The emphasis here is on ‘object,’ since as texts I have great affection for any number of books. What I am saying is that I do not hold the object to be precious just because it is a book, nor do I believe as do Nicholson Baker and Ranganathan that every book necessarily has its reader. Yes, they are likely correct in a narrow sense, but not to the point to which we librarians often carry the argument in defense of our collections and arcane practices.

Backing up, I need to stress that although I am generally known by my immediate colleagues and in my limited professional circles as a technically oriented librarian who runs systems and now manages IT operations, my educational background is entirely in the humanities, specifically German language and literature. Both my BA and first MA are in German, and when I entered grad school, it was in a PhD program in German with the intent to seek my way into the professoriate. At some point I lost interest in that ethereal pursuit, largely for practical rather than intellectual reasons, but that is another topic. My point here is that as much as anyone who seeks a PhD in literature, I bathed and swam in the textual world for years, and have built my intellectual house on a foundation of textual analysis, close reading, and an endless desire to debate the merit of pretty much any position.

As with many on that path, I once fetishized books and considered their acquisition and display to be essential. One of the strongest memories from both my undergraduate and graduate experiences is the omnipresence of walls of books. Every faculty office had dangerously overloaded shelves, seminar rooms had shelves of elegant hardcovers, and the defining decor element in every grad student’s abode was the book collection chock full of Derrida, Foucault, Habermas et al. When my now wife’s path and mine converged in graduate school, two daunting collections collided, as often happens in academic pairings. We shed some obvious duplicates, but kept others, because of course her marginalia said nothing to me and vice versa.

My entry into what has now become my career came while I was still a grad student at Washington University. In the second semester of what would be my last year in the program, I took a part-time job at the reference desk to supplement my TA earnings, stocking printers with paper and answering questions. Somehow, the librarian who ran the storage library on the West Campus discovered that I spoke German and could at least transcribe most Cyrillic languages, and quickly grabbed me to help with the processing of some massive book donations that the university had received and sat boxed on pallets in the depths of the storage library.

There’s something about going through a departed person’s books that feels more than slightly voyeuristic, perhaps even invasive. As I opened case after case of books from men (all men, alas) who had bequeathed their tomes to the library, I felt that I was peering through a window into their lives. Books, and our choices we make with them, reveal a great deal about a person, not least after tossed in boxes so that we as the owners can no longer control who sees what nor in what order or context. We can no longer explain why we have that distasteful or low-brow (oh the horror!) title, such as a copy of a Danielle Steele novel or the anti-German screed Germany Must Perish!, the latter being part of my own personal collection for reasons I’ll let someone ponder when I’m gone.

The gift processing we did at Wash U was by far the most disciplined and consistent I have encountered in my career, largely due to the management skills of the aforementioned West Campus librarian. We sorted the books into two general categories–duplicates of titles in the collection, and non-duplicates–adding contextual notes where relevant, such as noting new or variant editions, special features such as dedications, etc. After this sorting, the subject librarians were invited to the sorting area to select what they wanted for the collection. Everything that remained after that cull was placed in a storage area until we had a critical mass, typically several ranges or around 7-8,000 volumes, at which point we would put out a call for bids to regional used book dealers. We often netted bids that more than covered my paltry wages, not least because we had a run of utterly fabulous collections full of hardbound titles of interest in excellent condition. After the dealers took what they wanted, we ran a public book sale for the campus which was always popular since we sold books for a flat rate around 50 cents for paperbacks and a buck for a hardback. One sharp-eyed buyer nabbed a Dickens first edition, while I once scored a first edition of Ulysses, albeit the 11th printing and in terrible shape. Anything that remained after that went into a donation bin for the public library, until we realized that putting thrice-culled dregs into a donation bin was just pushing off the burden of disposal to others and wasting their time, so we started putting them in boxes (we didn’t want our own Nicholson Baker exposé moment), sealing them with epic amounts of duct tape, and chucking them in the dumpster.

Wait, what? A future librarian hucking books into a dumpster?

Yes, exactly that, and I felt no guilt. This was right around the time that Baker was barking about libraries discarding books and card catalogs, which means many cultured people were watching libraries for signs of anti-book tendencies, hence the duct tape to keep the boxes intact and thwart snooping. Reading Baker’s jeremiads, I understood some of his anxieties, but unless you’ve ever worked in libraries and been overwhelmed by the sheer mass and absurdity of the printed text, you don’t know anything about managing mass amounts of books. Those of us in the crew that did this dirty work occasionally referred to ourselves as the book executioners. That’s a morbid moniker, but the point was that we did something that others had been too weak willed to do, namely, to look at a book, shrug one’s shoulders, and chuck it in the trash. After all, destroying books is something that Nazis and other totalitarian types do, right?

The inability to discard even the most pointless book appears to be some universal human problem. No normal person has problems throwing out cracked dishes, old shoes, cassette tapes, dead plants, and so on. But old books, no matter how moldy, battered, or pointless, just never get the treatment they deserve, which is sometimes a trash bin. Ask any librarian how many people have tried to donate their lovingly boxed and preserved National Geographic magazines, their basic and battered Shakespeare sets, and so forth, and you’ll get epic tales of pointless gifts that just put an expensive burden on libraries. Who hasn’t seen a garage sale where someone isn’t trying to sell a Gideon’s Bible or a Book of Mormon (the point being that they are given away freely)? How many people still have their college textbooks on their shelves with those little yellow USED stickers intact? People, throw away your own trash!

Back when I was doing this gift processing work, I still fancied myself a book collector, because as I said I love texts, and collecting books was just what literary and intellectual types do. Not to do so seemed morally suspect, or at the very least evidence of a lack of commitment to the life of the mind, which I equated with my chances for landing a professorial job. While still in graduate school, I entered my collection of Czech literary translations into a contest, and later was inspired by my first and only reading of Ulysses to start accumulating Joyce texts. This meant I acquired texts that I have since declared that I have no intention of ever reading, such as Finnegan’s Wake. Over the past ten years or so, I’ve spent a not insignificant amount of time divesting myself of those books, in some cases successfully, in others letting things go for prices about which my miserly side still grumbles.

Lest anyone reading this think that I have chosen to become a semi-illiterate boob, I can assure you that I still read enormous amounts of text. My main pleasure reading is The New Yorker, with which I’ve had a long love affair, and I read a fair amount of professional writing in my field, both in journals as well as on blogs. Books still find their way onto my nightstand and desk, too, although it’s a good year if I make it through more than 10. I’ve always been a multi-thread reader, i.e.- incapable of reading only one book at a time. Currently, I’m reading:

  • First, Break All the Rules by Buckingham and Coffman
  • Der Turm by Uwe Tellkamp

The latter title is a dense thicket of German prose, so dense as to make Thomas Mann seem like light reading by comparison, so it’s not exactly a quick read. I mention this only to demonstrate that I haven’t entirely lost the ability to read nor the taste for more esoteric literature.

No, my purpose here was merely to sketch the path from bibliophile to biblio-ambivalent. As a librarian, I’ve often been consulted by friends or acquaintances when they have book-related questions or issues. One of the more interesting issues that arises in life is what to do with the massive amounts of books that passionate collectors accumulate, not least after they have died. Nothing can weigh more heavily on heirs than having to deal with someone’s library. On the one hand, they respect the intellectual and perhaps financial investment made by the collector. That person’s library likely represents one of the most intimate personal legacies left behind, and as such it has sentimental and emotional baggage aplenty.

On the other hand, they certainly don’t want the books in their homes, and have literally no idea what to do with them. Unless the deceased was a serious collector–most aren’t, and I mean serious about value and provenance, not the content–the collection has little financial value. Most of the few remaining used book dealers have become quite selective about what they will take, simply because the market for used books is evaporating as younger generations socialized in a hypermedialized world enter adulthood. And yet, despite the lack of value, few have the strength simply to discard the vast majority of the books, as they might do with old bath towels or bed linens, even if that’s the most viable option. So they dutifully box them up, take them to the library, and assume that they’ll find a good home there, much like taking a stray cat to the shelter. We know how that often ends.

I have no desire to put anyone through that particular emotionally charged experience, so part of my book divestment urge, both in the physical and intellectual sense, is simply an attempt to make the problem mine, not my childrens’. Sure, I’m likely decades away from that scenario, but why not get an early start? In the meantime, I can enjoy more room in my home, make moves that much simpler (and cheaper!), and use libraries for what they do best, namely checking out books to me, rather than asking them to do my dirty work.

  1. January 19, 2012 08:55

    Dümmeres las ich nie.

    • January 19, 2012 09:33

      Klaus – I admire your ability to remain true to your inner self. Sad that you have such a negative opinion of this, but I’d be curious what you find so dumb here. I might point out that most of this piece is descriptive, as in a recounting of actual events. Your gloss of this piece on your own blog is highly offensive, might I add. I’m not advocating the destruction of books, merely painting a necessary reality for certain printed materials that no one wants. I suspect that your English skills lead you to misunderstand what’s being written here.

      • Collector permalink
        January 20, 2012 10:00

        Interesting read. I’d count myself among those that collect books even though they know they won’t read parts of them. But I enjoy having them at hand and trying to be able to look things up (which of course works better with nonfiction. It happens so often that during a conversation or afterwalks I walk to the bookshelves and find myself diving into a book reading a chapter or two, something I wouldn’t be doing if the book was in the library. Other people might google the things I look up in the books, but I enjoy it this way.

        Of course there are books that I give away. What else should I do with some of those terrible books I got as presents (I hate pretending to like a book that I actually think is rather stupid – like those dumb books of German Comedians my brother and my cousin have been giving to me in the last years 😉 I usually try to sell them or just give them away to whoever is interested in those books, but I’d agree with you that there are books where it’s very hard to find somebody whose interested in those. I do however – just like Klaus Graf – absolutely love the idea of public book shelves. I have brought several of my books (including old National Geographics) to those shelves and taken other books in exchange. I’d highly encourage libraries to take part in programs like this!

        So while I differ with you on “collecting” books, I still found your text an interesting read and don’t understand the animosity of Dr. Graf, whom I regard highly both as a scholar and as a blogger. His arguments would gain so much if he could just stop insulting other people.

        Just one last quick note. I really don’t understand your reluctance to have other people, especially your children sort through your books in many years to come. I’ve been come across this attitude rather often quite recently since I had arguments with my grandparents who destroyed and burned old letters and pictures because they ddin’t want it to be a burden for us later on. Both my mother, aunts and uncles as well as me will gladly look through there books later on, and of course to pictures and letters as well. I’m sure we won’t keep everything, and just being “burdened” with the task to look through books and other remains of my paternal grandmother I know that it’s not easy, but it also gives me the chance to learn more about a person who has been suffering ftrom Alzheimers most of my adult life and to get insights in the interests of my grandfather who died some 25 years ago and I remember only as a five year old child. I learn things about our family history and about the history of the last century and I will keep the things I’m interested in and they’ll remind me that I have shared interests with my parents and grandparents.

    • January 19, 2012 12:13

      Nice lamps. As I allude to in my post, it’s the sheer tonnage–literally, tonnage–that libraries confront that make solutions such as this or those that Klaus supports on his blog unpractical. It’s not as if libraries have a budget line for things like this; in fact, we cut, scrimp, and shortchange all sorts of critical things to stay on budget.

  2. Henrik permalink
    January 19, 2012 12:42

    Really nice post!!!

    I’m a student of library and information science in Germany and really agree with you! I feel bored of the romanticized and self-affirming talk about books of many librarians and the tabooing of just throwing or giving away books. You’re right – it seems kind of obsolete to banish the practice to discard books. Actually the bibliophilic habit of collect books for me is sort of an attempt to deny your own mortality. I really like your idea to step on a biblio-ambivalent way and to don’t stress the new generation with poorly book collection.
    I’m 24 and already started some years ago to offer all of my books, cds, dvds for sale on the internet. To me a bookcrowed apartment isn’t necessarily adorable, rather I mostly get a feeling of messiness. I never understood, who in the world is in need to own hundred or thousand of books just for their own satisfaction or for the purpose of higher distinction.

    P.S. Sorry for my english!

    • January 19, 2012 12:55

      Thanks, Henrik, and no need to apologize for your English. I appreciate your willingness to comment in a second language.

      You picked up on something that was implicit in my post. I rarely, if ever, throw away books I’ve personally acquired, but rather sell them or gladly give them to friends who express any interest in a title. What I’m talking about is the sheer overwhelming numbers of literally unwanted books–not by libraries, dealers, or readers–that get donated to or dumped on libraries. In those boxes we discarded were books that even a bibliophile would have a hard time defending or loving; as I said, they were thrice picked over, so it really was the dregs. Ideas such as creating art work or setting up public shelves are nifty, but when faced with ranges of unwanted books, not really viable solutions. It’s also worth pointing out that many of the titles were discarded because of their condition, i.e.- broken bindings, acidic paper crumbling, etc. Libraries don’t have enough funds to preserve the books they have, let alone those that have been sitting in someone’s basement for decades.

      At any rate, thanks for relating your personal experience. I suspect that given the gradual shrinking of our living space as costs rise and wages slowly decline that we’re all going to have to be a lot less sentimental about a lot of objects.

    • January 19, 2012 14:44

      Ich bin nach wie vor äußerst angewidert von diesen Überlegungen, und denke auch, dass man sich schlicht und einfach nicht genug Mühe gibt, die Bücher an die richtigen Stellen kommen zu lassen. Auch wenn es um Massen geht. Und ich fühle mich durch diese unsägliche Wortmeldung von Hendrik in meiner Auffassung bestätigt, dass Leute wie Askey und er lieber Schlachter geworden wären. Ich kann da nur würgen und hoffe, dass es eine Hölle für solche Bibliothekare gibt, in der sie eine Ewigkeit lang die vonm ihren vernichteten Bücher lesen müssen.

      • January 19, 2012 15:26

        That’s an obnoxious reply, Klaus. I considered deleting it, but in the spirit of taking and giving in equal measure, it stands. Thankfully most of my readership won’t be subjected to it since they don’t read German. We’ve crossed verbal swords before, and likely will again, but I certainly don’t wish you any personal ill, as you have done with me here. That’s a bit too low by my standards.

      • Henrik permalink
        January 20, 2012 06:32

        Was für ein infantiler Objektfetischismus! Als ob Bücher an sich einen Wert besäßen, als ob es einen macht- und interessenfreien Raum gäbe, in dem Bücher einfach so existierten. Neben jeder machtvollen Glorifizierung eines bestimmten Buches durch die einen Interessen, gibt es immer auch eine permanente Entglorifizierung dieses bestimmten Buches durch andere Interessen.

        Ich lese bei Klaus einen verklärten und verklärenden Blick aus einer, scheinbar aus dem eigenen Tun abgeleitete, Innenperspektive, welche das Außen vollkommen aus den Augen verloren hat.

        Distanz und Selbstironie zum eigenen Handeln scheinen Dir gänzlich zu fehlen. Stattdessen verpulverst du unnütze und auch noch bösartige Energie ohne jeglichen substantiellen thematischen Bezug.

        Ich wünsche keinem Bösartiges – auch Dir nicht!

  3. January 19, 2012 22:07

    Ugh. You reminded me of my most expensive course pack in undergrad. A $150 photocopy of Mann’s (out of print) Joseph and his Brothers.

    • January 20, 2012 09:48

      Yeah, sorry about that. Didn’t mean to pour salt in the wound. When I think about the money I bled for textbooks, all I can do is wince. Joseph and His Brothers? Even more painful, since it’s one of Mann’s least readable books, and I’m a fan.

  4. January 20, 2012 06:16

    Thanks, Dale, I’m entirely of you opinion. The described gift procession is handled responsibly and professionally as it should be. I came to the same realisation that books are in many cases not intrinsically valuable and should be handled accordingly. (I answered in more detail to the Doctor’s commentary on netbib: here.

    • January 20, 2012 09:53

      Thanks for the comment. I read the comment thread on the netbib post. Several things occur to me. The first is that the situation of the book is quite different in North American than in Germany. Crassly generalizing, we fetishize the book far less, and our history hasn’t sensitized us to its destruction as in Germany. Beyond that, people such as KG simply don’t understand scale and its impact on the management of organizations. When we were dealing with those gifts (this was in the 90s), we often had range upon range of unwanted books: old textbooks, technical reports, broken journal runs, various government publications that only the author could love. Do people such as KG really think that putting these out a few at a time on a table or an open shelf is going to do any good? Who wants a 1963 economics textbook? It’s not realistic to suggest that a home for every book can or should be found. Poppycock.

  5. Anja permalink
    January 21, 2012 09:58

    Hi Dale.
    Really interesting article! I pretty much ran through similar stages as you. As a librarian student in Germany almost 20 years ago I worked shortly in one of those “Fachstellen”. They used old volumes of Der Brockhaus (German encyclopedia) as door stoppers or flower stands there. I thought “what a sacrilege, how can they!”I always wanted to have a full collection of Der Brockhaus, but never could afford it. I imagined a library room in my appartment, where I stored all my books. I bought lots of real old books on fleamarkets. Not because I wanted to read them but I thouhgt I had to keep them because they were great pieces of literature or history.
    I also took home lots of books my library weeded out.
    Well, time went by, I never had enough money to buy a Brockaus, nor did I have a huge appartment. I moved quite often (even to the US and back). And also, I do not want to have to many things (including books) cluttering my place and mind.
    So I gave away lots of my books, I either gave them to friends, sold them or gave them to Oxfam. I only keep the ones, that have a real meaning to me. Either because the content has a meaning or it was given to me by a person that means a lot to me.
    I do not have too many feelings anymore for the “object book”. Maybe also partly, the area I work in nowadays also almost has no books anymore, but electronic sources.

    There are many good uses for old, unneeded books. (Besides the obvious: selling, donating). Old books can be recycled into many nice things such as book shelfs (haha) or other furniture. There are lots of websites out. I just recently bought a “Schlüsselroman”. It’s a book with hooks on it, that can be mounted on a wall and used as a keyholder.
    (Here is a link to the manufacturer of this, hope this is OK, don’t want to advertise here:


    (Oh, and never mind Klaus. He notoriously insults everyone who does not have the same opinion as he does…)

    • January 23, 2012 21:34

      Thanks for the comment, Anja. It does indeed sound like we had similar experiences, which led us to have a certain view of things that others may find callous. So be it.

      Klaus didn’t really bother me. We’ve jousted before, and likely will again. As I told him, he drove a lot of traffic my way, which is the irony implicit in any flame post such as his.

  6. January 23, 2012 22:51

    @Collector – Many thanks for the lengthy and thoughtful comment. Enjoyed reading it. Picking up on your last point–asking why I have a problem with putting the burden of a book collection on my children–I can only say that that view results from both personal experience with the death of relatives as well as the professional experience of heirs coming to libraries with their deceased relatives’ books in an exasperated state. I also once had a long conversation with a collector when I worked at Yale who was selling us portions of his collection (to remove the burden from his children) about why he was doing it, and it greatly influenced and distilled my views on the topic. But I see your point; some heirs will very much want to go through certain personal effects. I suppose it’s a personal decision. If my children were to say to me that they wanted me to keep the books and go through them, I’d likely relent, at least to some degree, since I have other reasons for wanting a smaller home library.

    What would please me no end would be to give them my books while I’m still alive, so that they can enjoy them and we can discuss them. Then they can give them on to others and share the gift. We do, in fact, already do this with our kids even though they are fairly young yet.

  7. Fritz permalink
    February 21, 2012 14:14

    @Dr. Klaus Graf Ich habe eine große Zuneigung zu allen echten Büchersammlern und Menschen, die sich in dieser Sache auf den altmodischen Standpunkt stellen. Und das sogar mit ungerechtem Zorn.
    Trotzdem sollte man das Problem sehen: Ein Buch is nicht mehr unbedingt ein Buch. Die Zeiten sind vorbei. Vieles, was die Druckmaschinen ausspucken, inzwischen schon on demand, sieht aus wie ein Buch, fasst sich an wie ein Buch – es ist aber kein Buch, keine “Schatztruhe des Geistes”, sondern ein Marketingprodukt. Ohne echten Autor, ohne echten geistigen Aufwand entstanden – höchstens noch ein Dokument der geistigen Abfallkultur unserer Zeit.
    Wenn man sich mit diesen hohlen Büchern umgibt, frisst es einem den Geist allmählich aus dem Gehirn.
    Ich kann mich erinnern, noch als Schüler ging ich mal neugierigerweise zur Uni und hörte mir eine Vorlesung an – Germanistik oder Philosophie, weiß ich nicht mehr. Eins habe ich nie vergessen: Der Professor behauptete, schon das Ansehen der Buchrücken könne einen schlauer machen, z.B. ab und zu auf “Kritik der reinen Vernunft” gucken wäre gut für den Verstand.
    Ist das plausibel? Ich glaube schon. Ein gut verkabeltes Gehirn zieht einen Gewinn daraus, ab und zu an einen Buchtitel erinnert zu werden. Aber genau das ist ein Grund, den Müll zum Müll zu befördern.
    Im Grunde muss jeder Mensch im Laufe seines Lebens an seinem Kanon arbeiten – an den Büchern, die er ansehen will und nach denen er manchmal greift wie nach einer Flasche, die im Keller liegt. Wer viel liest, wird mehr Bücher-Geliebte finden als wer wenig liest. Aber ein paar sollte man haben und nicht nur abgelegt in der Kindle-Cloud.
    Aber das ganz und gar Überflüssige muss man nicht dauernd vor Augen haben, im Gegenteil …

    • February 22, 2012 12:49

      Well put, Fritz. I agree with your general statement here, that all books are not qualitatively equal and one has to make decisions according to that rationale. What I’m arguing here, however, has a distinct quantitative element, too. In fact, I tend to be relatively cautious with the qualitative argument, since different researchers seek different treatments that have nothing to do with objective quality criteria.

      Simple and perhaps too obvious an example: National Geographic Magazine. Steller photography, high quality paper, but utterly worthless to libraries who already hold a run, and nobody ever takes them from a free bin, since they’re all trying to get rid of a copy someone already gave them. Another example: yet another edition of Hamlet. Great play, but how many copies does any library need? Is there actually a library that lacks a copy? Doubtful.

  8. February 22, 2012 00:46

    Well, some of us can use google translate and just assume that the commenter is off his rocker and that it is not worth bothering with his blog. It is possible to disagree with you without resorting to personal attacks. I love my books and my records and until this last move, my cassettes but I totally agree with you. Maybe this has to do with the fact that Americans move constantly, sometimes to their detriment. But I don’t miss the boxes of books I sold to the Book Trader in order to move across the country. I don’t particularly want to sell any more but I know next time I move, I will. I guess it’s easy to keep all your books if you only move once or twice in your life and have no major life changes.

    • February 22, 2012 12:56

      Thanks for the comment, Jen. On some of the German discussions this post ignited people made indirect reference to “base” American consumer culture, i.e.- we throw everything away, valuable or not. After years of living in both countries, I reject any such comparisons. For one, Germany can be just as crassly commercial and wasteful as the United States, but also because, as you point out, the reality of the two nations makes such comparisons overly simplistic. I know people who have moved from Bavaria to Bremen who think that they have moved to another planet (hey Germans reading this, settle down: I know they are different planets, but clearly both M class and capable of supporting human life), and all I can do is laugh politely. The scale/trauma of moving as it is common in the United States is simply unfathomable to many Europeans, as are the decisions we have to make in order to survive it.

      • Anja permalink
        February 22, 2012 15:41

        Oh, I hear you. Being a German from Frankonia (some people know that this is in Bavaria, yet, we are not Bavarians….) who has moved to the neighboring Swabia, I know what different German planets you talk about 🙂

        Well, and as coincidence might have it, my father’s family is from Bremen. When they visited us, they acted as if they came to another country, because we spoke dialect and not “high German”.
        And then I moved to America, and back. And around some more. So I know how it is to always consider what is valuable to one to move it along. It’s often times not the expensive or high quality things, but thinhgs your heart hangs on to. The same with books. I do not know how many books I have left behind. Sigh
        Oh yeah, just because Germans have 3 or more trash cans in their kitchen doesn’t mean that they produce less trash then Americans who throw their trash in just one can…

  9. Kermit permalink
    March 18, 2012 14:35


    After your introduction in “Why libraries should collect books”, I expected a much more radical text. Actually I am a bit disappointed now. I can only aggree with you.

    Once I even burnt a book. It was a telephone directory.

    Thanks for your nice blog.

    • March 19, 2012 15:44

      Sorry to disappoint, Kermit! Perhaps if you read the nastiness that was said on other blogs you can find the radical edge in the discussion. Then again, I detect a welcome note of irony and humour in your content, something that was entirely missing from KG’s response.

      Glad you like the blog. Hope I can find some time to write in the near future.

  10. Pirate Pete permalink
    February 16, 2013 23:09

    Why I print books:

    Like most librarians (I think), I have a deep passion for reading. I also like books as artifacts, especially when they have some unusual character. I do collect books I think are worth collecting – antiques and rare editions that come my way, or works I think are unlikely to be accessible to me any other way. However, for the most part, I have made a habit of downloading and printing ebooks.

    Downloading? Yes, and usually without paying for them. How’s that for something more controversial them just throwing them away – a librarian who “steals” books? The reason is that I loathe the business practices of large publishers and the media conglomerates that control them, I disagree with the mass commodification of information, and I do not want to have any part in keeping the draconian copyright practices of big business profitable. Breaking the information stranglehold requires direct action; millions of people downloading music brought that industry to its knees and almost “won” the fight for a liberated media. I buy (real) books readily – and often – from small and independent presses, though I usually gift or resell them when I’m done reading; they are the onces who deserve my money and consideration, not the juggernauts of the industry.

    Printing? Yes, on an old, 24-pin dot matrix. Using a dot-matrix printer usually allows me to print cheaper than cover price at what was once called “near letter quality” or about the same resolution as my cheap HP inkjet. It’s loud and slow, of course, but I’m happy to let the screaming thing run in a closet while I’m at work to have a fresh copy when I come home.


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