What Are Books For?

  • ‘I love the feel of a book.’
  • ‘I love the smell of a book.’
  • ‘I need to be able physically to turn the pages.’
  • ‘I love rummaging around in second-hand bookshops.’
  • ‘I love those pretentious and expensive hard backed editions of books I’ve probably already read in paperback
  • I love expensive, hardback books which I will never read… you know, random histories of India, volumes 1 and 2.’
Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

I could never throw a book away.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
  • Do you possess copies of bed and breakfast directories for 1994?
  • Do you have cookery books for virtually every type of food and every sort of cuisine, and only use five or six of them?
  • Do you retain sets of romance/detective paperbacks, which you will never ever touch again?  (Your tastes have changed.)
  • Do you love cramming books, especially those costly hardbacks, on top of other books in your shelves, squashing them in, and wondering where on earth you’re going to find space for the others?
  • Do you have stacks of books under beds in spare rooms?
  • Do you have stacks of recently-read (and not so recently-read) books on tables?
  • Do you love dusting the bleep bleep things?  The dust doesn’t half accumulate on the upper edges of the pages, in between the bindings.
  • Do you love the smell of mildew emanating from a book that hasn’t been touched for a long time… five years… well, ten years… How long was it since you decorated the spare bedroom?  Fifteen years!
Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

So, what do you do?  You say to yourself you will have a clear out.  Having negotiated with your other half, who will – naturally – remove almost everything of his/hers from your chuck-out pile, you box them up and take them to the charity shop.  Oxfam do second-hand books, don’t they?  But the fact is many charity shops aren’t very interested in your average cast-offs, only particular sorts of books which they think they can shift quickly.  The remainder of your treasures will be pulped.  The same goes for the left-overs from bookstalls at local fetes.

I understand that ‘real books’ are back – see this article in The Irish Times, with all the usual arguments about feel and physicality being trotted out again.  There are occasions when only a print book will do, for instance, for a child who is being read to, and for whom the pictures are as important as the text; often books for the very young contain pop-up images and swatches they can touch.  Additionally, when I am teaching myself how to do something on the computer, I can understand the subject much more easily from a paper-based page, because I can flip back through other pages with ease and type code, build a website, or whatever, on my machine.

However,  it’s not necessary to read fiction in printed form.

This post has been quite flippant so far, but there are some serious ecological issues: about knocking down trees to produce paper for people who could read electronically; about needing storage; and disposal.  I have a Kindle library running to several electronic pages.  It takes up no space in my house at all and doesn’t need dusting.

Books are for reading.  Full stop.

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2 thoughts on “What Are Books For?

  1. Enjoyed this, Rosemary!
    Choose the books you want to keep – not the ones you don’t want – it makes for a more positive view of your book collection. (Partners have to be allowed the same privilege though.)
    Bear in mind that books sold for pulp raise money for charity shops as well as selling the books themselves (not as much as they used to, but it’s better than nothing). It’s good recycling.
    Also, there are other uses for finished-with books. For example, underneath the toll section of the M6 motorway there is an absorbent layer beneath the hard top made from remaindered books (Mills&Boon romances I believe)!
    And I know some people who collect discarded large hardback books to make into attractive side tables – upcycling too!

    1. Thank you reminding me of the other uses of print books. 2 friends of mine have built an eco-house in which the insulation in the walls is old telephone directories. I should have recalled this!

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