The Recycle Bin

Today’s post is inspired by my mother, who (unbeknownst to her) raised an interesting question about ebooks. My mother only recently got rid of AOL but has somehow managed to jump immediately to having an iPhone, where – to her delight – she can download ebooks. Just one problem – “What do I do with them after I read them?”

I take after my dad. He doesn’t join Netflix for the same reason I don’t belong to a library – we need to own, and display, the things we love. With him, it’s movies. With me, it’s books. I have lots of them, and give or take the sporadic “do I really need three copies of Pride and Prejudice?” I keep 98% of what I buy or what’s given to me.

I like arranging books on my shelf, being able to look at them, picking up old favorites to re-read, or just  reorganizing my shelves when I’m bored. But mostly I like owning books. For these reasons, I don’t really buy ebooks. I say “really” because I’ve purchased five ebooks in my life, but I don’t see myself buying more if they are also available in print. I have nothing against them and see no difference between reading a book and reading an ebook during the act of reading. My love lies in the books themselves. There are books I have in my apartment right now that I know I won’t read again, but I like knowing they’re there.

But there are those with a less romanticized notion of books. So you tell me, embracers of ebooks, what do you do? If no one can see the physical evidence that you’ve read Thomas Pynchon, do you bother keeping him on your ereader? Can you delete and move on, the way technology does, or do you transfer each ebook to every new ereader because you just can’t let go?

12 thoughts on “The Recycle Bin

  1. The idea that someone can read a book on ereaders and return to it anytime or anywhere is fantastic; I recently re-read Lord of the Flies (what beautiful writing) on a long haul flight after having read it only two months prior. I am definitely for the “collect and do not erase” school of thought. Furthermore, nothing like being in the process of writing, then picking up your ereader for inspiration, reading random paragraphs of random books, inspiration which may not be found if you deleted the works.


  2. I love the idea of ebooks more than ebooks themselves. For instance, I watched Let Me In, realized it was based on a book, and downloaded it 10 minutes later. It makes things easier when, due to the hectic schedule of work, parenting, work and whatever else it is I do with my time, I want a book and can't make it out to buy it that minute. For that reason, they're convenient. Still, I buy more physical books than ebooks because there's no substitute for the feel and smell of pages. I'd much rather browse my bookshelves at home than scroll through a list on my Nook. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and succumb to the new age.


  3. The way people learn and enjoy and retain knowledge is with a tactile object. So many people are visual that when they remember a favorite story or a favorite moment, they can actually picture that page, that picture, the feel of the paper, the font— it's a piece of art. Books are a piece of art and they're never going away. They're always going to be amazing gifts and amazing friends. They are so great to share and reuse.


  4. I read every book on my e-reader (NookColor), then if I love it enough, I buy a hard copy to place on my book shelf, and occassionally, to stroke lovingly. Otherwise, it's off to the archive!


  5. When I finish an ebook, I delete it off my Kindle back to my computer library, where all my books are stored in neat folders. I only keep read books on my ereader if I expect to read them again in the near future.


  6. I have a weird thing about books. I can't read library books 'cause they feel *dirty* to me (I get sick really easily, so I think a lot about washing hands and what I touch in public) and I'm a bit obsessive compulsive about keeping books *pristine*. Every book on my shelf looks brand new, except the ones I've lent to other people (grrrrr). When people have bent pages/spines, I will tell them to keep the book and buy a fresh copy.

    I have eclectic tastes in books. Most of my favourites are authors no one else has ever heard of, so I don't really care what people think about the ones on my shelf. I don't think there's any particular *status* in having read, say, the Russian classics.

    I also am a voracious reader. When I go on vacation, I usually plan to bring 1-2 books for every day I'll be gone. Try carting 2 weeks of books around in a separate suitcase…

    So, I absolutely love my e-reader! Not only are my books always clean/unmarred, but it fits in my purse and I can rip through a dozen books without having to lug them through airports. Also, if I run out, I can easily buy more from wherever I am in the world!

    e-books rock!


  7. For the longest time I tried to figure out how I felt about ebooks. The thing is for me it'd have to be one or the other and I'd have to choose print. I realized that I would miss not having a bookshelf wherever I lived. One of my biggest dreams is to have a huge library (preferrably like in Beauty and the Beast). Right now I'm in a dorm where most of my books are in a rubber maid in the middle of the floor. Someday they will have a shelf!


  8. When my son was born, I lived in a studio apartment with about 20,000 books. (And no, I don't exaggerate. I had most of them in boxes, most of the time.) We moved a few months later, and I got rid of maybe five or six boxes worth. The next time we moved, I got rid of 10,000. I counted. The next time we moved, I gave up another 2000, and it started to get really painful. I lost a few more with the next three moves, but then came the big one: from CA to FL with no money. I looked at how much it was going to cost to move all my books with me, and I said goodbye to all but the barest minimum of favorites (about 600 total).

    I have never deleted a book from my Kindle. Yay for ebooks!


  9. Any book that I would want to reread, I buy in physical form. Like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or The Magician King. But as far as the other books, I don't have any connection to them. has a record of everything I've bought, and even if it didn't, in this information age I could always find a copy somewhere.

    I collect movies more than books, I guess.


  10. I have the same problem…The only books I've ever purchased in ebook format were books that didn't come in print. And if those ever come out in print, I'd have no problem buying them again to put them in my library. If I can't arrange my books in various orders depending on my mood of the month, I'll go insane. And knowing that there are a handful of books that I can't -physically- arrange drives the little literary OCD voice in mind insane. He gets pretty loud on occasion…


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