Since childhood, which is now lost in the mists of time for me, I’ve been something of a
hoarder collector. It started, as you’d expect, with things like toy cars, soldiers and animals. It wasn’t very long, however, before I began to find it impossible to part with books that I enjoyed reading, or which were useful as sources of reference. By the time I was into my teens, I had a bookcase all of my own – four shelves in a three foot high affair. Within a short two years, this was nowhere near enough! I was now using a wall-high, wide-shelfed bookcase as well. In fact, both were groaning under the burden of books, with several of the shelves on the bigger bookcase having their contents doubled up.
It’s still true that I can’t part with favourite books. Only once, many years ago, did I ever thin out my collection – and I’ve regretted it ever since. Now, however, we’re definitely suffering from a space problem. There simply isn’t the room for all our books (Jenny’s also an avid reader) along with our other interests and the inevitable items we’ve been given or otherwise made or obtained as a result of having had a family. We’ve got real overpopulation problems! We have bookcases filled with books, DVDs and even videos. We have books piled in stacks or lying in clusters in various places. The situation is serious, but the thought of disposing of treasured books actually hurts.
Our own situation has, however, given me cause for thought. At one time, our local town was a haven for numerous second-hand bookshops. Now, I can think of only one in a neighbouring town. Most second-hand books come from charity shops, with that peculiar blend of over- and under-priced volumes. Most of these seem to offer a good outlet but I couldn’t bring myself to pass any of my books on to them. I’ve seen unsold books being bagged up as nothing more than trash! Also, most charity shops here, in Britain, have become very commercial – raising prices for many items to a point where some actually exceed the “new” price for items. We had always seen such shops as a way for those on, or below, the “breadline” to be able to afford things that were otherwise beyond them. With the raised prices, more and more people are losing out. That seems to be contrary to what charity shops should be about. Consequently, we now avoid them most of the time.
Now that Jenny and I both have eReaders, her Kindle and my kobo, we face new choices. We can obtain only new works as ebooks or we can mix in some old favourites. I’ve opted for the latter. I often have difficulty holding physical books, especially larger tomes. Getting the ebook versions allows me to enjoy those books without difficulty. We’re looking at a happy situation, where we can also add to our reading matter without increasing the population in our home!
As I see it, there are many people less inclined to hoard their books. They are frequently found to be great users of public libraries. If such folk obtain eReaders, then they have a golden opportunity to be generous. If you can part with books you own, then it must be possible to get them out to folk who can’t afford to buy books for themselves, especially those with children or the elderly or infirm. Authors (and publishers) may not thank me for the suggestion, of course, but being sensible, they aren’t going to lose anything! I’m talking about giving books to people who can not spend their precious funds, needed much more for food, clothes and other mundane living costs, on new books.
I really wish that I had the heart, and courage, to follow this suggestion myself. If, however, I’ve inspired you and others to do so, then perhaps my sin can be forgiven me.