Booking Through Thursday: Personality

I was reading the other day a quote from JFK Jr who said on the death of his mother, that she died surrounded by family, friends, and her books. Apparently, Jackie’s books were very much a part of HER, her personality, her sense of self.

Up until recently, people could browse your bookshelves and learn a lot about you–what your interests are, your range of topics, favorite authors, how much you read (or at least buy books).

More and more, though, this is changing. People aren’t buying books so much as borrowing them from the library. Or reading them on their e-readers or computers. There’s nothing PHYSICAL on the shelves to tell strangers in your home, for better or worse, who you ARE.

Do you think this is a good thing? Bad? Discuss!

While I agree that digital readers have had an impact on who buys physical books, I don’t think it’s removing anything telling from your shelves at home—I think my action figures and other collectibles say a lot about who I am and what I value. And Jackie O. had enough money to purchase books she might only read once or twice; I only buy books that I’ll reread over and over again, due to space and money concerns.

Books are a huge part of me; you only have to talk to me to find out. And until they make a ten dollar Kindle that doesn’t electrocute you in the bath, people will still buy physical books and keep them at home. So I find this question kind of alarmist and disingenuous; there will always be things in your home that express who you are, be they books or not. And bibliophiles will always have a book or two kicking around—heck, even having a Nook in a specific place of honor says something about you.

Ultimately, I find the slow move away from print books to be utterly neutral—it’s natural for our society and, while I love books, the codex will eventually give way to the next innovation in publishing. But the pace of that is going to be glacially slow, I think.

11 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Personality

  1. Great answer! I agree, books aren’t the only things that can describe a person’s personality.
    And I love my ereader. It gives me the ability to have a large chunk of my bookshelf with me at all times. But I definitely still buy “old-fashioned” books as well. The switch from print to entirely digital is definitely not going to be happening over night.

  2. Here’s what I tell people who come into my bookstore and worry about e-readers taking the place of physical books:

    Two of my closest friends have e-readers and get a lot of use out of them. But they still haven’t given up on physical books. They use it as a way to get books they’re not sure about a little cheaper. Authors and series they really care about, they still buy the hard copy and love it just as much as they always did. Sometimes, they just buy the physical books, because that’s what they’d rather have. And any physical books they’re done with, they can sell to the local used bookstore for credit.

  3. I completely agree. Also, it’s kind of misleading to put it in terms of “up until recently”, as home libraries for anyone other than the very rich are really not that old a phenomenon.

  4. I use electronic text for research, but never for pleasure: can’t beat the tactile sensation of book pages. Plus it’s more environmentally friendly and doesn’t use up electricity while you read.

  5. I’m not sure anyone hides their library books, either. You have to give them back after a certain amount of time, sure, but they’re still sitting around until then. Anyone who wanders into my room can see my stack of library books. Anyone who finds me reading in public can peek at my book.

  6. I love peering at people’s books when I go over to their houses! But then I suppose if someone had a Kindle, I could…whatever…browse their Kindle library? I don’t really know how they work.

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