An Epiphany In My Garage (Or Why I Bought an eReader when I said I didn’t need one)

It was only a couple of months ago that I wrote about my lack of compulsion to own an eReader so I did feel a bit awkward posting about my backflip last week (though in my defence I never said I would never own one, just that I couldn’t think of a reason at that time).

I have to preface the rest of this part of my story by sharing two aspects of my personality:

  • I don’t like stuff. I do not feel an overwhelming need to own or accumulate things. I am the opposite of a hoarder (which I assume is unusual because there is no word to describe people like me, unhoarder perhaps?) and the older I get the less stuff I want. I buy a lot of books because I want to read those particular books, if I could borrow everything I wanted to read from a library when I wanted to read it I would do so in a heartbeat
  • I will donate, sell or re-purpose the stuff I no longer need or want but am unable to bring myself to throw away anything that I no longer want but is in perfectly good working order

And so to the garage

The top picture is my TBR bookcase.

In the picture below you can see the space remaining on my ‘read books’ shelves which all of those books will have to fit into once I have read them. And even if I only procure books at the pace I can read them (currently I’m at about double that rate) I would still need to find space on these shelves for 100+ books I actually read each year.

Because of the repetitive nature of this physics issue what I end up doing every couple of months is trawling through my ‘read’ books and seeing what ones I think I can find new homes for. Which is not as easy as it sounds. I use

  • bookmooch (but being in Oz I am at a disadvantage as I pay a fortune to post books overseas and very few of those overseas members will send their books to me here)
  • I have some places that I donate books to (but my regular charity shops and hospices have started to say “no thanks”)
  • I give books to friends (but not everyone shares my tastes and several share my overcrowding problem).

My current strategy is to move the books I don’t want to the garage and hope like heck a burglar will come by one day and be so smitten my collection of slightly worn crime fiction that he will ignore my grandmother’s jewellery and my HD TV and be on his way.

It was during the last migration season of books from shelves in the house to boxes in the garage that I had my epiphany: if I switched to eBooks I wouldn’t have this problem.

The five-year dream

I really hadn’t thought of eReading as a replacement for the other kind before. The few people I know with eReaders seem to still have large piles of physical books and most people (even the slimy people who’ve been trying to sell me a device for the past 14 years) talk about eReaders as adjuncts to ‘normal’ reading rather than a replacement for it, so the idea of completely switching to eBooks had never occurred to me. But as I looked around my garage on that cold, wet Saturday wondering where I would find room for yet another container of unwanted books I started to dream of a world free of physical books.

My hope is that within five years I will be reading eBooks almost exclusively (I can see situations in which I wouldn’t want an eReader such as in the bath or at the beach but I hardly ever have baths and I despise the beach so these are not huge obstacles for me).

It’s early days yet

Of course owning the eReader is the easy bit. I still have to change my book buying behaviour (largely this involves learning patience as some titles are not released on eBook at the same time as their paper brethren) and wait for all publishers to realise we’re into the second decade of the 21st century already. I also have all those physical books on my TBR shelves that I want to read.

But you gotta start somewhere, right?

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16 Responses to An Epiphany In My Garage (Or Why I Bought an eReader when I said I didn’t need one)

  1. Bernadette – I know exactly what you mean about storage and about wanting to find good homes for the books you have read. I’m not at all a hoarder, either, so I have exactly the same issue with books that I have read and enjoyed (or even not enjoyed) but don’t want to throw away (perish the thought of discarding a perfectly good book!). That’s one reason I’m considering an E-reader, too, although like you, I never planned to get one. It is a very neat (pun intended) way to solve the dilemma of being a passionate reader with limited space and no desire for clutter.


  2. I’m glad I’m not alone in being a non-hoarding type Margot and I really do hope this turns out to be the right solution for people like us. My device cost me roughly the same amount as a new bookcase would cost so I figure I’m not going to be out of pocket too badly even if the experiment fails. And I do looooooove the device itself (will be writing about that next week I think)


  3. JoV says:

    Where do you live? I might pop by your garage and have a look. I might be smitten by your crime fiction collection. 😉

    Your bookshelves looks really cool, but I suppose we all need to look to the future and live in one of those streamlined, clinical, no clutter, electronic and digital environment as seen in Hollywood sci-fi movie.


  4. Patty says:

    I can honestly say that other than books sent to me by publishers…I don’t buy any real books any more…I just Kindle my books now…and with Kindle 3 you can “shelve” your books into various collections and ARCHIVES…that is my favorite because the titles remain and the books are stored on Amazon…


  5. kathy durkin says:

    This is interesting. I don’t think I’m ready to give up my real books as I love the TBR pile next to me and love how books feel, smell, the page-turning, the bookmarks, the passing them to friends. I took two shopping cards of books a few years ago to the library and donated them. I have a lot left and I like them up on my bookshelves with pottery around in my living room and bedroom.
    I just got “high” in a library just from seeing the shelves of new books and the possibilities of reading them–mysteries, of course.
    So, I am hooked. But I can see how an e-reader would be attractive.
    If you don’t like beaches (which I agree on), what about when you want to go for a walk in a park, sit at a bench, go to a cafe–don’t you want a real, rather than a virtual book?


  6. @JoV I’m not sure I want that kind of clinical environment with nothing around me but nor do I want to have every spare wall in my house covered with shelves (there is another book case that I didn’t photograph but it doesn’t have a single space left on it just now). I like having what I need around me and I do have some momentos and things but generally I like to be surrounded by things that I use in one way or another. I wish you did live nearby and I could leave the garage door open for you 🙂

    @Patty I look forward to being able to do that too, harder here in Australia as many of the books that can be bought in the UK and US cannot be bought in eBook format here (though we can ship in the hard copies no problems). But this will change over time I’m sure.

    @ Kathy, I’ll leave it another week or two before writing about the feel of reading the eBook vs a physical book. Right now I’m feeling very positive about the eBook but it could be just that I have an affinity for gadgets (if I were ever going to hoard stuff it would be well designed gadgets of all kinds). I’ve only read one full book on the eReader so far and want to read another couple before cementing my early thoughts on the pros and cons of paper vs e-ink.


  7. Iris says:

    I like my ereader because I figure I can read anything I want and buy the books that I really love in “real” book format. Of course, half of that was just an excuse for me to buy an ereader.


  8. I’m with Iris on this matter, but at my age the last thing I need is another print book. I have my favourites surrounding me (books that is) and I’ve had to let so many go that, frankly, I probably wouldn’t have opened the covers again. With my Kindle I’m reading more than I have in years. I retire at night and to relax, switch on the ‘text to speech’ and ‘read along with mother’, which I have to say Amazon have done an excellent job with, even if the odd word is mispronounced. I particularly like it when it reads, for example, “The door closed on Miss Belinda Lawrence” (a good friend of mine), the Kindle will tell me, “The door closed on Mississippi Belinda Lawrence”. So you get laughs along the way as well as reading books.


  9. BooksPlease says:

    I was a bit surprised when I saw you’d bought an e-reader but now I understand. And I’d never thought that one of the benefits of having one would be that I would no longer be inundated with piles of books all around me. You’ve made me think again, because I thought the only use I would get would be when travelling and away from home – which isn’t very often for me.

    I’ll be reading your thoughts about the feel of reading the eBook vs a physical book, with interest. I’m reading Heartstone by C J Sansom right now and it’s too big and heavy to read in bed – it’d be much easier on an e-reader. I think I’m half-way to getting one already!


  10. kathy durkin says:

    Oh, gosh, my bookshelves with pottery are just perfect. I did, as I said earlier, take shopping cartfuls of books to the library about four years ago, which opened up the bookshelves. And, with a few decorating tips and some pottery and some favorite or nostalgic or vital books, the bookshelves are part of the decor.
    But I still love to go to the park with a book or to a cafe or read late at night.
    I understand the gadget thing, although I realize I’m not a gadget person, except for my computer, although much of it mystifies me.
    Will check in to see how the ereader or paper book is developing.


  11. Thanks for all your comments everyone, I am enjoying hearing about the joys of eReader ownership as well as the doubts from those who haven’t yet made the plunge. One thing that is really clear from all of this is that you have to have your own reasons for jumping in and not everyone will have a reason yet and some will never do and that’s fine. I’m going to try really hard not to become one of those “I’m doing this so you should too” converts.


  12. kathy durkin says:

    “Luddite” is my middle name. However, I cheer anyone who embraces technology, can use it well and goes into the great yonder of cyberspace and enjoys it. (Me: I was intimidated by my new printer and changing the cartridge–had to use the diagram on the instructions but still made a mistake.) But for all who take the leap: best wishes.


  13. E-readers have made it possible for me to begin reading all the classics I want, with minimum inconvenience. I live rurally, my local community library doesn’t have a copy of Anna Karenina.


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