View Full Version : Why keep digital books?


tcv
11-08-2006, 09:59 AM
Hey folks,

About two months ago, I moved from Boston to Houston. With the help of a personal organizer, we managed to pare down quite a bit of our personal belongings. Remember, less weight means less money when it comes to moving.

The personal organizer is a good friend of mine and we spoke one day about all the books we owned and whether to donate them. We got around to talking about why people kept books?

She mentioned several reasons, but two stuck out with me:

1. We like to display our knowledge to others.
2. We're enamored of the look of books -- the different colors, the sizes, etc.

I can't say those reasons are good enough for everyone, but I see what she was getting at.

But both reasons become null-and-void with a digital reading device. You can't really display the amount of books you've read and all books look the same.

Still we tout the ability to keep several books with you as a good reason to have a digital reading device.

I'm curious: Why keep digital books at all?

Why do you do it?

odklizec
11-08-2006, 10:33 AM
Personally, over the years, I collected large amount of e-books. And why I'm keeping them all? Because I want to return to some of them from time to time, it's good source of knowledge (even though only a small part of them are educational books) and why not keep them all if it cost only few hundreds of megabytes? ;) I can always carry my entire e-library with me on a single memory card! I just moved to another house and the weight of crates with all my printed books almost killed me! I still feel them in my back! :rolleyes5 And although I still purchase printed books, I preserve only the best of them and my main library is now e-library ;)

Liviu_5
11-08-2006, 11:03 AM
Hey folks,

I'm curious: Why keep digital books at all?

Why do you do it?


I never buy a book whether print or digital, that I do not think I want to reread. For books I plan to read only once, there is the library or bookstore browsing since I am a pretty fast reader. Now I buy many books, so it is unlikely I am going to reread all and I donate ocasionally some that I think I am done with, but overall, I reread partially at least, a large percentage of my books.

It makes no difference if it's print or digital, a book is a book, not a disposable magazine or newspaper.

Liviu

Bob Russell
11-08-2006, 11:14 AM
Unfortunately, conversion to e-books is probably not a real possibility for me. I have boxes and boxes and boxes of books in my garage, plus many bookshelves at home. I'm overrun with them. Even if DRM issues get worked out, I realize I probably won't be able to replace them with e-books in my lifetime (too much to scan and not popular titles in general, so unlikely they will be available in e-book form). Actually, very few people have bookshelves only filled with popular books available in e-book form, so it's probably a common situation.

To go all digital, the technology would also need to improve also, because I only find ebooks useful for quick reference (like encyclopedias) or front-to-back reading (like works so well on the Sony Reader). For many other books I want to jump around in quickly. Even sometimes with novels (e.g. if I revisit them).

Are e-books really preferable? Yes! I just turned down an overflowing pickup truckload of books from a friend. I really wanted them. The only thing that made me turn them down was storage issues. If they were e-books, I would have joyfully accepted them. Of course, if they were e-books without storage issues, he also would have wanted to keep them!

In this day and age with e-books (and even with paper books), we have personal libararies that can probably outshine the libraries of royalty in the past centuries. So much is readily available. I think that's one of the reasons pbook storage is such a big issue. We want and even expect to be able to collect a full library. With Project Gutenberg and others, it's no big deal for an individual to do that.

As far as books I've read, I do like to have them stay available. For paper I want to be able to give good ones away. For e-books, I just want to be able to go back and remember it, even if it's just glancing and skimming it for nostalgic reasons.

tcv
11-08-2006, 11:25 AM
It makes no difference if it's print or digital, a book is a book, not a disposable magazine or newspaper.

Ah-ha. I am curious: Why is it not disposable?

nekokami
11-08-2006, 12:03 PM
It makes no difference if it's print or digital, a book is a book, not a disposable magazine or newspaper.
I re-read magazines (the ones I subscribe to), so they aren't disposable, either. :)

I agree, I re-read a lot of the books and other material I own. Sometimes if I'm not sure whether or not I'd like a new book, I read it at the library first, or read a chapter or so in a store, then buy it or not depending on how well I like it.

We also recently moved, and gave away a lot of books. I think we gave away 7 boxes, and that was about 1/3 of the fiction. But that didn't count the 5 boxes of non-fiction that I "avoided" moving by moving them to my work office first. ;)

If all the books had been eBooks, I probably wouldn't have given any of them away, but I'm not sure I'd have had so many of them in the first place, because a lot of them were books given to me by someone else who was giving away books to solve a storage problem. So the lack of storage convenience has worked in my favor as well as against me. :shrug:

It would make it easier to find books (or specific passages in books) inmy collection if I could just search digitally, though.

yvanleterrible
11-08-2006, 12:23 PM
Unfortunately, conversion to e-books is probably not a real possibility for me. I have boxes and boxes and boxes of books in my garage, plus many bookshelves at home. I'm overrun with them. Even if DRM issues get worked out, I realize I probably won't be able to replace them with e-books in my lifetime (too much to scan and not popular titles in general, so unlikely they will be available in e-book form). Actually, very few people have bookshelves only filled with popular books available in e-book form, so it's probably a common situation...

.
Now now Bob! I'm sure there is someone like me in your neighbourhood who can help you with such a problem! :happy2:

There is still room, before readers become interactive, for good dictionnaries and encyclopediae!

There is sharing of books in my family, but Alas! The ghost of DRM lurks about!

Jack B Nimble
11-08-2006, 12:45 PM
We finally ran out of room in our home, so my wife is now part of a book-swap group (bookins.com). That has saved us a TON of space and money. I don't see an ebook equivalent coming anytime soon, given the DRM issues.

In any case, I keep books to re-read. I can't say I display them for any reason, because I am a slob who has to go digging for books when I want one, and I generally avoid allowing people to see into my stacks (literally -- not a library term) of books. Admittedly, with the space shortage, and the cost of books, most of my reading is web-published stuff these days.

Jack

yvanleterrible
11-08-2006, 02:17 PM
You can be surprised at what a clever cabinet maker can come up with. If he's been trained around boats or RVs where space is at a premium, there are proven ways of doing things, even hanging stuff from the ceiling!
There is a good coffe table book, the kind we're not going to see on a reader soon, called "Living with books"(if I remember correctly) by Alan Powers, Octopus Publishings 1999 GB. It is chock full of ideas and has a section for beginning "doityourselfers".

Bob Russell
11-08-2006, 02:52 PM
Interesting book, Yvan. Seems to have a Google preview here:
http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN1840001267&printsec=toc&dq=%22Living+with+books%22+alan+powers

Top to bottom, full wall built-in shelving is what I dream of.

stxopher
11-08-2006, 03:38 PM
I'm curious: Why keep digital books at all?

Why do you do it?

(Blast it....lurk mode off....first time too....)

Why? In my case because books and magazines are to easy to lose. They can be lost to accident, misplacement, wear or need. The last major loss for me was due to need.

Due to a lifestyle change I had to get rid of most of the things I had collected. Some were sold, some were given away, some small amount stored. The most painful thing was the book situation. Three pickup loads of them that didn't get stored (mostly paperbacks and reference). Bookstores wouldn't take them, charity orgs didn't want them, libraries couldn't have them without approval. Since this was before the network neighborhood of the internet today there was only one option left.

Three truckloads of books into the county landfill. (It still twinges me thinking about it 15 years later.) Most of which are hard or impossible to find now. Sometimes I will find myself looking for a book I know I have, I remember having read it, and then it strikes me that it was one of those left to burn all those years ago.

Now? Books are still a part of my life and slowly becoming a large part again (just picked up 4 hardbacks this week alone) but space is always a premium. Not all of us have large rooms (or even small rooms) to devote to the space books can take up and so we have to be more particular than we like.

Digital solves most of that situation. They take up basically no room, can be safeguarded onto a small medium for storage or transport (try and do that with 12 bookcases), are almost always available (in todays generally industrialized world) and because one of the greatest problem with physical books (space used) is not present there is no need to get rid of older volumes due to moving or just to make way for newer volumes. This means that chances are good that if you remember reading it earlier, you still have it available to use as reference or read again.

But then, this type of reason also is only of primary concern to those who view the book as a carrier of information and entertainment and not as a decoration or "occasional event" (as in "I just read a good book over the last couple months").

Physical books still find their way onto the shelves of the bookcase at home but thanks to the non-physical format I can be more selective about which ones are good enough to take up the space while maintaining a horribly decadent reading volume, a huge library readily available for entertainment and education, and the ability to take almost all of it with me from now on.

Or we can use the answer one of the kids gave me when they came over to read: "Why not keep them? It's not like they got to be dusted."

NatCh
11-08-2006, 03:45 PM
With my wife finishing her PhD in 19th century British Literature (she has >100 Library books at the moment) and the fact that I'm both a big reader and a congenital pack-rat, I'm looking at putting high-density shelving in a room, once we have a house rather than an apartment, just to handle the books!

I only have about 1/3~1/2 of my books in the apartment (the rest are in storage), so we're in a bad way come move time. I'm going to have a very interested look at that book you mentioned, yvanleterrible, and I may have to give you a call when it comes time to do those HD shelves. :grin:

I'm thinking of a design where the shelves would slide out from one in of the room like drawers in a giant chest of drawers laid on its side, wall to wall, floor to ceiling. The weight alone frightens me. :smile:

Liviu_5
11-08-2006, 03:55 PM
Ah-ha. I am curious: Why is it not disposable?

I keep fiction magazines too so when I refered to magazines, I meant newsmagazines and newspapers which I consider by and large disposable (and I subscribe to several).
I do not buy books that I do not plan to reread so in that sense I do not consider books disposable. I have books both e and p written 2000+ years ago that I still enjoy, and books published 50 or more years ago (talking about my print edition) that I still enjoy.

Liviu

yvanleterrible
11-08-2006, 04:16 PM
With my wife finishing her PhD in 19th century British Literature (she has >100 Library books at the moment) and the fact that I'm both a big reader and a congenital pack-rat, I'm looking at putting high-density shelving in a room, once we have a house rather than an apartment, just to handle the books!

I only have about 1/3~1/2 of my books in the apartment (the rest are in storage), so we're in a bad way come move time. I'm going to have a very interested look at that book you mentioned, yvanleterrible, and I may have to give you a call when it comes time to do those HD shelves. :grin:

I'm thinking of a design where the shelves would slide out from one in of the room like drawers in a giant chest of drawers laid on its side, wall to wall, floor to ceiling. The weight alone frightens me. :smile:
Only thing that lasts for shelves is 1 1/4" solid hardwood.
My next library will have closing glass panneled doors. Dust mixed with greasy kitchen fumes creates a mess on top of books. When I get my daughter's former room redone, I'll make about 20feet of it

tcv
11-08-2006, 04:31 PM
Top to bottom, full wall built-in shelving is what I dream of.

"You idiot! That's a load-bearing encyclopedia!"

Steven Lyle Jordan
11-09-2006, 10:38 PM
Some of my friends still threaten me with what they will do to me if I ever ask them again to help me move. My boxes of books and magazines are infamous (almost as bad as my wife's old Varityper, which needs nothing less than a crane to shift). But I want to keep those books and mags, because I go back and reread them, too.

I'm with Bob, if there was a way to convert all of that to electronic files, I'd lose the boxes, lose the bookcases, lose a LOT of paper weight. And I'd never throw away a book again for lack of space.

Are e-books disposable? No more or less than paper books. Disposable... like a lot of things... is in the eye of the beholder.

tcv
11-10-2006, 01:08 AM
How long can one keep stuff in a digital format? Especially if no prevailing standard ever comes of anything...

da_jane
11-10-2006, 01:18 AM
My floor to ceiling bookcase was made by Mr. Da_Jane out of plywood and it works fine for shelving. Before I went e- I had 1500? paperback books stuffed into this thing. Each shelf held three deep of the books. :) I'll have to dig up a pic somewhere.

yvanleterrible
11-10-2006, 10:48 AM
How do you all classify anything?

Liviu_5
11-10-2006, 11:39 AM
How long can one keep stuff in a digital format? Especially if no prevailing standard ever comes of anything...

If you buy only unenecrypted stuff or convertible stuff and make it html/rtf and back it up on a cd or external drive as I do, I am pretty sure you will be able to read your e-books whenever you want.

If you must buy a locked-in, non-convertible book (something I never found necessary), you can get a good snag program, write a script to turn the pages and snag automatically on your pc screen and ocr like a regular scan.

Anyway, personally I never touch an e-book (even if free and I am not joking I saw free encrypted books) that I cannot have as an html/rtf file.

Liviu

RWood
11-27-2006, 05:34 PM
We have moved several times in the 27+ years that my wife and I have been married, thankfully none for the last 15 years. The last two moves were contracted out to the same firm. When we called them to come and estimate the last move they paused and then said, “Oh yeah, you’re the people with all the boxes of books.” How nice they remembered us.

Both of us read a great amount and a lot of the books are never available at the library until we donate them. Many we keep and others are set free to find new homes and enrich other lives. The only regret we’ve had was several cases of books that were ruined when the last house developed a mold problem. (It also claimed several cases of 12” Lp albums.)

Over one-half of the eBooks around here are technical. Most of these are in PDF and a surprising number are in CHM with no DRM restrictions.

The look, the feel, the smell of a great book is unique. The typography of many is a beauty in themselves. This can never be captured fully by an eBook although some PDFs come close visually.

The library is full and overflowing on the floor, the extra bookshelves in the office area are two to three deep, there are stacks in the back of the walk-in closet that can’t be walked-in anymore, and then there are the shelves and cases of books in the basement. We are now down to our last case of 12” Lp albums as the rest have been converted to electronic form (FLAC and APE format.)

One thing the eBooks can never capture is the first edition exuberance or the author’s signature and dedication from the book signing. (See, there’s the signature right on the face of the CD.)

yvanleterrible
11-28-2006, 10:25 AM
We have moved several times in the 27+ years that my wife and I have been married, thankfully none for the last 15 years. The last two moves were contracted out to the same firm. When we called them to come and estimate the last move they paused and then said, “Oh yeah, you’re the people with all the boxes of books.” How nice they remembered us.

Both of us read a great amount and a lot of the books are never available at the library until we donate them. Many we keep and others are set free to find new homes and enrich other lives. The only regret we’ve had was several cases of books that were ruined when the last house developed a mold problem. (It also claimed several cases of 12” Lp albums.)


Me too! 28 years. When we came in this house, aside from the tools and computer junk, there were more books and records than kitchen stuff. What I remember most is the looks in their faces when they compared the book piles to the really cheap appliances! :happy2:

WaxMan
11-28-2006, 01:12 PM
One thing that occured to me when the original poster mentioned ebooks being disposable is that gosh darn it yes they are. In todays linked electronic world is there any reason (aside from DRM and highly restrictave companys) that there should be more than 1 library copy of a book. Should not eBooks / eMagazines / Technical Journals be Load, Read, Remove. Sure you may want to one day go back to them so all you need is an index some way to conceptualize your past selections.

The only thing that should not be disposable about eBooks is access to them, and fair payment for the use (that however is another issue).

I see no reason what so ever that we should all have our catalogues of eBooks along with the source material. Of course considering the ammount of work that can go into preparing a particular text to work correctly in your favorite viewer on the available hardware, unless the text is immediatly retransferable the this can become an issue in the transient book view.

This is only playing devils advocate however I have as I expect many others here do a magpies approach to books. Although I do hope that some time there will come a time for seamless reading, a good start for me is 'safari books online' the only issue here is the portability of the text from the web.

NatCh
11-28-2006, 01:46 PM
More of a packrat myself. :nice:

johnnaryry
11-28-2006, 01:46 PM
Ah-ha. I am curious: Why is it not disposable?

To some degree, it's a 'cultural thing'. While growing up in Europe and the U.S., I was taught and advised by almost every adult I encountered to respect and appreciate books (''Books are your friends!"). To this day, I still have a very special feeling regarding bound volumes. I still feel a strange sadness when I see a damaged or poorly disgarded book. Books are somehow, more significant than a magazine or newspaper. A book is meant to be consumed, absorbed over a period of time and also to be available for revistation. Magazines and newpapers serve a much more immediate need. It's sort of like comparing a McDonald's or a Burger King to a Michelin star rated resturant, you can fill your belly at either, but the memory of the meal will last much longer, more vividly at one of those.

I think that, more than anything, our cultural attachment to and reverance of books is the greatest barrier to a more widespread acceptance of ebooks...

:cool: --ryan

stxopher
11-28-2006, 05:33 PM
Talking with some friends last night about the new e-ink book readers (and taking a lot of ribbing for being a gadget hound because I actually went against my normal advice and picked up a first gen item). Of course it got around to P-books, e-books and the pros/cons of each.

One thing that did come up (and was touched on here just a few messages ago) was that ebooks use digital data that can be reloaded on demand so why keep them around at all when done? You can always just get the latest when you need it.

Reason NOT to just get the latest version? Because it IS the latest version. The latest version with any and all the changes made for correctness, convenience, expedience, revisions, or embarrassment. Because just because something is available NOW does not mean that it will stay available years down the road.

The landscape of what is popularly acceptable changes. Sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly but always it changes. It's part of the way society is. If it doesn't change, it stagnates and eventually dies. The problem is that society is made of people (which also shows the truth to the adage that "A person is smart. People are dumb.") which can make some pretty silly judgment calls. (Such as, oh, editing old cartoons because it could make todays kids violent psychopaths determined to run off cliffs and chew dynamite.)

Some things could become unavailable due to a "correction" of history or policy. Even now people are still trying to rewrite the American Civil War and Watergate because it doesn't agree with their world view. Not content with presenting their side they seek to make it the official one and say all others are wrong (all the while forgetting that history is not one view but myriad views) and should be discarded, forgotten or "unavailable". One of the things holding actions like this in check is a solid basis of what was said, seen and thought before. (Pbooks are excellent in this regard and have security and authority that ebooks with their transient and malleable nature do not have.)

Shoot, when you think about it, digital packrats could be the modern day equivalent of medieval Irish monks sitting around in their little beehive huts. Except with better lighting. And cable. (You know they would have had it if they could have. Medieval monks would have been big fans of home shopping and the Discovery channels.)

nekokami
11-29-2006, 10:15 AM
How many people here have read Farenheit 451?

I think it's important to have knowledge as widely distributed as possible. Too many things can go wrong if all the backups are in one place. (And it doesn't have to be a dystopic book-burning government-- there are plenty of natural disasters that can take out servers and backups-- or libraries.)

I'm wary of having my books depend on electricity or a specialized format. Though I'm an optimist by nature, I also tend to take the long view. Will I still be able to read these books if (when) there's a power crisis? Will my kids/grandkids etc. be able to read these? These both seem like reasonable questions to me. I would keep all the copies possible, backed up in the most basic format possible, with copies in a firesafe and (if possible) off-site. One of the reasons I'm attracted to eBooks is that it might be physically possible to do this and still have room to move in our house. ;)

rlauzon
11-29-2006, 10:59 AM
Reason NOT to just get the latest version? Because it IS the latest version. The latest version with any and all the changes made for correctness, convenience, expedience, revisions, or embarrassment. Because just because something is available NOW does not mean that it will stay available years down the road.

Oh, ya. This hits home. We have too many schools around my area that want to ban Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn from schools because their use of the N-Word.

These same schools had banned (for a little while) all the Tarzan books because they thought that Tarzan and Jane were living together but weren't married (they confused the books with the movies - they are married in the books).

The fear that the book you read tomorrow will be different than the book you read today is a very real fear. With pBooks, the probability of that happening is low. But with eBooks, it becomes very easy to do such a thing.

nekokami
11-29-2006, 11:17 AM
The fear that the book you read tomorrow will be different than the book you read today is a very real fear. With pBooks, the probability of that happening is low. But with eBooks, it becomes very easy to do such a thing.
If we're going to be paranoid, let's imagine a virus written especially to target the contents of specific eBooks, to change their contents. :huh:

Steven Lyle Jordan
11-29-2006, 11:41 AM
It's called "Find/Replace."

slayda
11-29-2006, 11:58 AM
Also Big Brother will know what you're reading.

rlauzon
11-29-2006, 07:26 PM
If we're going to be paranoid, let's imagine a virus written especially to target the contents of specific eBooks, to change their contents. :huh:

Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean that everyone's not out to get you.
:wink:

johnnaryry
12-05-2006, 01:19 PM
The fear that the book you read tomorrow will be different than the book you read today is a very real fear. With pBooks, the probability of that happening is low. But with eBooks, it becomes very easy to do such a thing.

pBooks can just be made to 'disappear' instead. Ever hear of a book called "Sisters (http://www.amazon.com/Sisters-Lynne-Cheney/dp/0451112040/) " by Lynne Cheney (http://www.whitehouse.gov/mrscheney/)?

--ryan

Phebe
12-15-2006, 03:25 PM
I just moved to another house and the weight of crates with all my printed books almost killed me! I still feel them in my back! :rolleyes5

I had carpal tunnel syndrome for a year or more after carrying the book boxes to the house I'm in now. Book boxes are so easy to overload.

Yep, now that material goods are so CHEAP relatively, it's time for a platform shift.

I would like to be able to do marginalia. And highlighting. But otherwise, it's great: 32 books, no weight to speak of.

Phebe
12-15-2006, 03:46 PM
why people kept books?

She mentioned several reasons, but two stuck out with me:

1. We like to display our knowledge to others.
2. We're enamored of the look of books -- the different colors, the sizes, etc.


I don't think people are impressed with stuffed bookcases ------ that is, maybe some are, but I'm not sure it's ever mattered to me. Either people are bookish or they aren't, you know?

One reason to keep books is homage: I have an entire Stephen King collection, I think it's everything. Also Dick Francis (it's really good writing, IMO).

Another is you can't get some books so easily anymore, certainly not on e-books: certain translations of Dante, certain poetry collections, etc. WHICH translations one has is very important: the Illiad, for instance (try Lattimore).

As for keeping books because one shouldn't dispose of them ----------- it's no longer an issue of cost OR rarity for many commonly available books. So I'm thinking, the rule for life regarding "stuff" is "Into, Thru, and Out." Things are so cheap now! So plentiful. So I do throw out or send off to other places books popular fiction that isn't very good or I won't read again. Digital is essentially no storage, at least if the computer or Reader doesn't crash.

I think the Depression mentality is still haunting us, and I'm fighting it with digital books. Into, Thru, and Out. At least for common, generally available books.

tcv
12-15-2006, 08:35 PM
Hey Phebe,

I oftentimes read a book and immediately toss it into the trash thereafter.

How does that strike you? Foolish? Okay?

yvanleterrible
12-16-2006, 10:45 AM
Recycle! TCV. Bad boy! Try to look out for organizations that cater to illiterate people. They need the books. When I can't find a friend who'll adopt my old books, that's where they go.:wink:

Phebe
12-21-2006, 03:54 PM
I oftentimes read a book and immediately toss it into the trash thereafter.

How does that strike you? Foolish? Okay?

Okay................it's your books.

We have TOO MUCH STUFF in this country: all the cheap oriental manufacturies.

Okay, it's still hard for me to toss books (unless they are bad, and then out they go). So I give them to my husband to take to a "trading shelf" they maintain at his work. And I have boxes of paperbacks on the porch ------ will your example inspire me to chuck them? Maybe.

Anyway, it's partly hard because we're all brainwashed by those old black-and-white photos of Germans tossing Jewish books on the bonfire. Aaaaaaacccccckkk!!!

So I'm moving laterally ------ I'm getting dozens and hundreds more books, but they are just pixels; they are non-material.

That'll work!!

tcv
12-22-2006, 11:27 AM
Heh. Although I do sometimes actually _toss_ books, I was asking it as an extreme example. And Phebe answered in the way I thought: it's hard to toss them! And why? Well, there are a lot of reasons.

And, yes, digital books don't need to be tossed. There's no reason to do so.