The Death of My Physical Books

Something happened in my life that had a fatal impact on my book collection.

Ever since I was 14 years old, I have collected books. At times I had to leave some of them behind because I moved and didn’t have any room. Other times I sold a ton of science fiction books at a garage sale for a quarter a piece, only to regret it later when I wanted to read one or the other again. Then I actually bought some of those books a second time retail at the bookstore. I have also given boxes and boxes of books away to the library when I had no more room to keep them.

When I was young, I always dreamed that eventually I’d have a house with a library where I could put all my books on shelves. However, the houses were never big enough, and the extra rooms always had more practical purposes. The dreams of our youth often die. In the end, the majority of my books were always in stacks of boxes in the garage.

A couple of weeks ago I wanted to read James Clavell’s Tai-Pan. I knew I had the book, and over the weekend I opened a couple of my boxes labeled fiction and I was lucky to find Tai-Pan right away. Here is the cover:


I must have bought it twenty years ago. It was spotless, albeit a bit yellowed around the edges. Never read, never really opened. So I started reading it, and there was the surprise.

I didn’t like that the print was too small. Here is the last page in the book and on the Kindle for comparison:


I have gotten used to all books on the Kindle being written in the same font, the same font size, and the pages presented with the same size and number of lines.

I could not comfortably read the hardcopy book, especially while in bed with inadequate light, while traveling, or while eating. The hardcopy book is also heavier than the entire kindle. To read it, I needed two hands, mostly to keep it open. I can read a Kindle with one hand and without straining my eyes.

After working the hardcopy book for about 10 or 15 pages, I gave up. I pulled out my Kindle, searched for Tai-Pan on Amazon, purchased it with one click and within 60 seconds I was reading on the Kindle. I put the hardcopy book away on the nightstand for good.

And that was what happened: I have no business keeping all these books any longer. I will never have a library in the house to display them. I don’t want to move them ever again. If I want to re-read one or the other, I will likely buy it again on Amazon. So am I kidding myself?

Here is an interesting blog post by another writer to the same effect.

I will keep text and reference books that still have value. Art and photography always looks better on paper. Books with charts, tables, text-books and the like are still more readable in hardcopy. But novels?

They need to go. The Tai-Pan experience was the death of my physical books.

Of course, since I made that decision, a colleague of mine recommended Thrice Upon a Time by James P. Hogan. It was not available on Kindle, so a few days ago, a nice little box arrived from Amazon:


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