shelf of books

Have E-books Led You to Purge or Preserve Your Personal Library?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

What will I feel if I divest myself of a lifetime of accumulated memories, hopes, and dreams represented by my books?

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

shelf of booksI’ll admit that to a large extent I’ve built my personal library for free. Over they years in my capacity as a book critic I have been sent tens of thousands of books for consideration. Often twice, first as galleys and second as hardcovers. Many of these I donate, but thousands I have kept.

Increasingly, though, I’ve become more and more reliant on services like NetGalley and Edelweiss for my review copies, and only request final print editions of books I want to fact check my reviews against. And as I become more and more comfortable with the convenience of digital reading — and get older — I start to look at my bookshelves with a bit of suspicion? Will I ever really read that Joyce Carol Oates novel from six years ago? Or that book about the life cycle of garbage that sounds so interesting, but isn’t likely to be something I’d pick up in favor of a new episode of Breaking Bad?

If I’m truly honest with myself, I’ll never live long enough to read all the books I already own.

So why keep them? Loyalty to the printed book? No, fear that I’ll forget I wanted to read the book in the first place. Fear of losing whatever that particular print title represents to me. Fear that a house without print books will feel like less of a home to me. I was raised surrounded by books and hope to raise my daughter the same way. Though for her, they might not mean as much and at some point in the future, if I burden her with 10,000 volumes she might not feel any urgency to read, how will she feel?

And, of course, I ask myself, what will I feel if I divest myself of a lifetime of accumulated memories, hopes, and dreams represented by my books?

So tell us, have e-books led you to purge your print library? Or has it made you hold onto it even stronger?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.