Country Living Series

Monday, May 19, 2014

Books? We ain't got no stinkin' books!

As you doubtless know, we love books. We collect books. At last count (four years ago) we owned over 5000 of them.

WND columnist Barbara Simpson, it turns out, is as much a book aficionado as we are. I learned this after reading her column last week entitled Books? We Ain't Got No Stinkin' Books! I enjoyed this column so much I asked permission to post it in its entirety here.

So without further ado (and because we've been having a busy streak and I haven't had time to post anything clever of my own...) --
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Books? We Ain't Got No Stinkin' Books
by Barbara Simpson


I admit it. I’m a book nut.

I love them and have since I was a kid.

I love browsing among them, handling them, reading them and keeping them.

I could read by age 3; going to the library with my mother was a regular pastime. As I got older, I went myself and browsed the shelves, each title stimulating my imagination. By seventh grade, I’d read every single science-fiction book they had!

When my family went to New York City, one of our favorite evening pastimes was to visit one of the massive bookstores such as the Strand, Scribner’s or Barnes and Noble.

Our whole family would split up, each going to their favorite sections until hunger or closing time got to us. It was wonderful, and we didn’t even have to buy anything! It was magical.

Books and reading have always been that to me, but the world has changed.

News reports this week told of the financial problems facing Barnes and Noble. It seems issues of bad management decisions, the growth of the Internet and technology and changing consumer choices have added up to a financial hit.

Several estimates are that by the end of the year, B&N may well be gone from the retail scene.

I remember when Borders went bankrupt in 2011. I felt as though a friend had died.

But it’s a bigger problem.

Used bookstores are disappearing too, at a record pace. Where I live, virtually every one, some which had been in business for decades, is gone.

And that affects another business.

A man who deals in used books told me last week that his business is fast disappearing. He buys books from estates and individuals, but now he has fewer and fewer places to sell them.

Schools and libraries don’t want them – they have limited shelf space, but in fact, many are converting “real” books to electronic books so shelf space isn’t needed.

My county library system last year had a gigantic book give-away. All the excess books from all the branches plus all the books donated to the library by citizens were available at one location over a weekend. Come and get ‘em! They were free. I resisted going.

After that, all were shredded.

It’s a tragedy and a reflection of dramatic cultural changes.

People are reading less; they’re too impatient to read a whole book; and those who do read are using electronic books so hard copies are useless to them.

These are probably the same people who prefer the Internet to the daily newspaper delivered to their home.

As a result, publishers are printing fewer books. In addition, the growth of print-on-demand as well as the ease of self-publishing are making actual hardcover books an anachronism.

Another trend making “real” books disappear is that schools are focusing on electronic books and eliminating real textbooks for students.

They read bowdlerized versions of classics and don’t know what they’re missing.

Ultimately, it means that the history and beauty of the written word and their meanings will be lost to the future. They won’t be able to read or write.

I began this piece with admitting my love of books, and there’s one other admission I have: One of the hardest things for me is getting rid of books.

Second to that is getting rid of magazines.

As you might surmise, one of the biggest challenges in my life is trying to keep my library from forcing me out of the house!

When I came to Northern California for my new job anchoring the news for KTVU-2, I arrived with 36 boxes of books to move into a lovely home that didn’t have a single bookcase!

I couldn’t imagine anyone having no bookcases, so I did something about it.

I had some built in my den and bought some freestanding ones for other rooms.

That worked for a while until, like Topsy, my collection grew. It didn’t help that later I worked for years in talk radio and had access to hundreds of new books and authors willing to be interviewed.

So I had more bookcases built and got more separate units.

Then I realized I’d reached the limit of the house so into the garage I went, but ultimately that had limits. After all I had to leave room for the car!

Eventually, books spilled out into halls, closets and piles adjacent to every bed!

I was, and am, surrounded with the printed word. Despite donations and some sales, I’ve realized that I’m drowning in books, whether I love them or not!

A friend told me years ago that he’s also a book lover. His solution was (and is) to keep a separate apartment just for his books!

I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t.

He told me his wife put her foot down about having hundreds of books in their house!

At the time, I thought a separate book apartment was silly.

I’ve changed my mind. I realize he’s absolutely right.

I’d do it too, if only I could afford it.

In the meantime, don’t trip on that book.

32 comments:

  1. I confess, I own a Kindle. One of the cheaper ones. I didn't buy it, it was given to me as a gift. I have to admit, I don't like it! I've read several books on it, and it really bugs me to be at a very crucial part of a story when a box suddenly pops up telling me I need to recharge my battery! I guess I'm old-fashioned, but I like to hold an actual BOOK in my hands! I like turning the pages, and I love the smell of a new book. The electronic gizmos just don't impress me. Thanks, but no thanks! --Fred in AZ

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  2. I almost had a heart attack when I read that all the leftover books were shredded. I cannot imagine ever purposely ruining a book (unless maybe it's like really, really bad). I would go a whole day without eating, using the bathroom, responding to anyone talking to me, or sleeping because I'd be stuck in a good book. It's one of life's most enjoyable solo activities. A big comfy chair is a must while reading. My vocabulary has grown so much from reading books. Unfortunately, even libraries are getting more digital. My local public library just installed a self checkout so I don't even have to look the librarian in the face. I hate that. I'm like Fred. I don't like reading a book on any electronic device. It's very satisfying being able to go through all the pages, and at the end, shut the back cover and say, "I just read that whole thing."

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    1. I agree, Emma. I scared the willies out of my mother when I squawked and clutched my heart at that sentence. When I explained that I was fine and read part of the article to her, her response was "And we didn't make it to the Book Sale this year." My reply was we aren't missing next years! Our county Library system has a book sale every year and we all hit the doors with bags in hand. I started bringing a 2wheeled grocery cart with me to hold my loot! I wouldn't mind an e book reader at some point, some authors I read are only in electronic form , but I'm not giving up my hard copies; thank you!!!

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    2. Not EVERY book printed is worth keeping. And, in all honesty, libraries are driven by what their PATRONS want. Patrons WANT access to ebooks. They also want access to print books. BUT I don't know of any library who has the budget or the space to keep every book they buy. And, I'd rather see the unwanted books shredded than seeing them take up space in a landfill somewhere.

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  3. Breathing and reading go hand in hand in my life. I read my first phrase just one week after my first birthday, according to my mom. I am a prolific reader, books overflowing everywhere. I took several in the car with me every time we went anywhere. Then we moved to a town without a store, book or otherwise. The closest book store was expensive and I read to fast to buy books at full price. Then in 2010, my daughter started talking about the Kindle. I was given a birthday card from our church and with the cash in it and some added by my husband, I bought one. I wasn't sure I would like it but due to the fact that I can download books instantly and I can carry thousands of books in my purse now instead of them stacked on the pickup floor, next to the bed, couch, dining room table etc. I love my Kindle. Also, I have more than 1000 books downloaded on it and have paid a total of $36 for 8 of them. The rest have all been free. I have the old style of kindle and it is just for reading. The battery life is about a month before needing to be charged. I take it everywhere with me and have never run out of books to read. That was a constant problem previous to the Kindle. The other benefit is that my kids and my husband are more interested in reading using the Kindle. I know that the printed page is disappearing and that is awful but because of the circumstances that we are in, I am so thankful for my Kindle.

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  4. I have a Kindle, and I love it. I would much rather have my books stored on it than have them in physical print.

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  5. Much as I hate to admit it I have come to like reading books on the computer. The biggest thing for me is that I can make the type larger so it is easier for my old eyes to see the words. I met Angry American at a show here and got his books from the going home series. Man that type is small! I read the whole series anyway but it was not as enjoyable as when I read them on the computer.

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  6. What a great article. My husband and I are also book lovers. Real books that can be held to read and put on the shelf to read again sometime or to have for reference. We currently have a storage room for books and are building another house so we have "room" for our books. We think of them as indispensable treasures.

    What happens when the power goes off? When the internet can no longer be counted on for reference materials or important reference manuals, what will "the people" turn to for the information they need in their daily lives. Things that are now taken for granted that Google has a quick answer for, important things that we use in our daily lives for pleasure, teaching, Health......RECIPES..... It can go from bad to really bad quickly with our last few generations of electronic dependency. The people with the books will be the people with the knowledge, answers, solutions.

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    1. I agree whole heartedly. What happens if/when the grid eails. How will we teach children? Where will knowledge come from? I am very selective about what books I buy so I don't end up with a separate apartment for them. I have found some really great books at second hand stores lately.

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  7. I confess, I don't like my Kindle either. I thought I would, as I am an avid reader. I love the feel, the smell, and turning the pages, too. I notate and underline in my books, fold the pages, use sticky notes and bookmarks. Some of my books are like old friends, complete with inside jokes. When I see the bookmark or when I am flipping through a book and a notation or underline catches my eye, it's as if my book is winking at me saying, "remember when you read this for the first time?" and I say to it, "I certainly do, wasn't that great?" We smile at each other and it's just between us...two old friends who never tire of each other.

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  8. I loved this! My husband and I have books in shelves in almost every room plus the stacks in front of the shelves and the stacks just about everywhere that people won't trip over them. When we have guests who of the super-neat persuasion, we box up the stacks and hide them in the garage. They come back to the stacks after the guests leave. When we moved into our current home, one of the workmen installing some device commented that we had a lot of bookshelves--at the time none of our personal shelves had been set up and there was what we thought of as a meager built-in of 5 shelves 30 inches long. What would he have thought of our 12 cases with 5 shelves 36 inches long?! Of course we have added a few since then. Plus the stacks. We actually get rid of some from time to time, but since we sold or gave away a dozen we feel quite comfortable adding even more. It's an addiction, but one that we are happy with. Our lives are a lot richer for this addiction.

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  9. We have hundreds of books on our shelves. I tried to convince my wife for years to get a Kindle. She always told me and I agree, that there's nothing like smelling a book, especially an older one. We finally bought two Kindles a couple of years ago. We are both slowly converting our books over to Kindle format for several reasons: first is that my wife can read any book on it in larger than normal font because due to cataract surgery and aging, she's having too many problems reading standard type. Secondly, we can keep all our e-books in one place. Lastly, I find that I am less likely to beat myself in the face with a large book when I fall asleep reading in the bed :)

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  10. LOL, I am the same way. I love books and can't bear to get rid of them. Magazines.........well, I can get rid of some of them, but not all. I knit, crochet, make jewelry, cook, garden, you know the usual stuff and I have many books and magazines with such useful information that I sure can't get rid of them. I belong to 2 book clubs and of course those books have to stay in my collection. I love the feel and smell of books. Nothing can match the experience of holding a book, reading the page and turning that page to see what's next. I read one book on my daughter's Kindle and knew immediately that electronic books were not in my future. I am so glad my grandchildren love books like I do! They go to the Barnes and Noble with me and can spend hours there just like me. Although they do sit for awhile at the electronic book table, it is to play whatever games are there; they still go pick out books to look at and read.

    Recently I was tasked with helping clean out a dear friend's book and movie collection after his death. One of the people there actually said she didn't need any books because she doesn't read! I was stunned. I seriously did not realize that some folks don't read. I was very grateful to have access to my friend's books and even more grateful to be given an opportunity to select books for myself. The rest of his collection went to our public library. Now that's a legacy my friend would have been quite happy about.

    And, books don't need to be plugged in to work. I can take a book off the shelf and it is ready to go.

    I hope I always have eyesight that allows me to read and books just waiting to be read.

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  11. I love books, but my problem is with photos. I have thousands of them. My dad was a photographer and I come from a background of artists. I just can't part with them some are lithographs and although I have many saved to cd and flash drive. What would happen if the grid was lost no more books no more photos a historical past lost in the dust.

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  12. I also have hundreds of books.I would rather read a book than the kindle.I have kindle on my tablet for one reason only.So I can read at night without turning on the light and disturbing my husband.with hundreds of both paperback and kindle books to read,all I need is more time to do it.Alas with a 2 year old and an 8 month old,I don't see that happening anytime soon.

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  13. St. Vincent De Paul is my source for books. When I travel I take a couple of full size hard cover books with me to read. When I'm done I leave them at airports or train stations in the hope someone else wants to read them. I select hard cover books for this because they are easier to read in the varying conditions of travel. I first tried the pocket book versions but the smaller type is more difficult to read in low light conditions. St. Vinnies has the best prices and many of their stores have huge book sections. One of our favorite pastimes is to travel and visit all the Goodwill, St Vinnies and similar stores along the way. A great way to discover towns you are now driving by when traveling. Seattle has one of the largest Goodwill stores I have ever seen. Saulsalito has the smallest. Portland Oregon has a small one in the Downtown area that caters to high end items, great antiques and expensive clothing. We call it Goodwill Hunting...

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  14. I love books, they're one of the two collections I maintain, can't imagine home feeling like home without them, nor a good nights sleep not having struggled to stay awake for that one last page.

    Another trend making “real” books disappear is that schools are focusing on electronic books and eliminating real textbooks for students.

    I do like the idea of schools going to nearly all electronic media, with the exception of complete unabridged classic works (which hopefully a students family would have and make available at home long before "real" school begins"). Textbooks are generally inferior sources of information, frequently full of bias and errors. If we are going to fund public education, I would much prefer the more efficient delivery electronic sources offer, as well as the much easier editing for corrections and updates. Not that the typical ISD seems to care one way or the other as long as their agenda is on tap, but it would at least be less costly to the taxpayer than tens of thousands of textbooks that are destined for obsolescence before the ink is dry.

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  15. I love books, reading, collecting, shelves of wonderful books.... till it's time to move them. Yikes!

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    1. last move was five years ago. told the movers "4000 books 22 bookcases and assorted large furniature, no appliances". they told me it would take three hours.... ok, so i budgeted for four hours. it took six hours, and the new guy they brought walked off the job half way through it.
      since then... another 1000 books? yup, wall to wall bookcases. i am NOT moving again unless i find my property/homestead. ;-)

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  16. I just recently tried a Kindle for the first time and it is okay. I think it's fine for "library books" - things I will read once and give back, or for books I want to have multiple copies of, or access everywhere I go - like my Bible. It's great to be able to download classics for free. But if a book is a "keeper" it's worth the shelf space for me. It's easier to flip thorough and reference, I don't have to remember to charge it, and it doesn't mess with my sleep cycle the way lighted screens do.

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  17. Books? We have hundreds. Kindles? We have three. My only comment on the KIndle is that it is easier to read in bed because the thing doesn't flop around. Each has its use. More importantly at least reading is a part of our lives.

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  18. I agree with those expressing concern about electronic media. To me, electronic versions of books, photos etc. are like precious metal mutual funds, if you don't have physical (printed) possession of them, you don't own them.
    Montana Guy

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    1. You are right, you DON'T own an ebook. You have permission and the right to read it, but you don't own it. Amazon, B&N, etc. can and have deleted ebooks from people's accounts. The only way to actually OWN a book is to have a print copy.

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  19. I scared the willies out of my mother when I squawked and clutched my heart at reading about shredding books. That is akin to burning them in my mind and hers as well. Her response when I read part of the article to her was "And we missed the Book Sale this year." I replied: "We aren't next year!" Our county library system has a yearly book sale and my entire family is such a bunch of bibliophiles that we've all taken to bringing something with wheels to hold all our loot. I usually finish first, when that happens I buy my books and go tuck into a corner to start reading my "preciouses"!

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  20. Ah, books books everywhere. I can't help but love the author and disagree with her too. Not every book is a keeper. A book is not meant to be kept in isolation.

    The only books I keep are the ones I hope my children will read or that I may need to read again for the information. My sister has shelves full of books that she can't get rid of. There are tons of paperback fictions that she read as a teenager that she loves. I told her not to worry about getting rid of them any more since I just consider them my emergency toilet paper supply.

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  21. My Kindle and ebooks have changed my life for the better. No exaggeration. I read so, so, so much more than I did when my only option was printed books. With the Kindle app on my phone and laptop, as well as my actual Kindle, I am always synched up. I switch off between the devices daily. And don't even get me started on the self-publishing industry that ebooks have made possible. Why should we be limited by what the "big six" publishing houses think we should be reading. Seriously, ereaders and ebooks are the best things EVER.

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  22. I sit here, disconsolate, as all my books are in small moving boxes in the "new" house, in a different state. To make matters worse, the "collection" has been pruned yet again. If I could have, I would have saved every book from my childhood (military, only books left after the last move were my Marguerite Henry collection--all my Hardy Boys went to thrift store!) to my children's childhood to the present. I sent the kids their books, and still have my horse books, but our new home will seem empty without a huge collection. However, I can't carry all those heavy boxes, and still feel the effects of the boxes I did pack in to the house.
    I just can't bring myself to purchase a kindle or some such. There's nothing quite like a real book.
    sidetracksusie

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  23. It would be interesting to know just what genre of books people keep in their libraries! We have had a room dedicated to books, aka library for the past twenty years or so. Before that the books were in dedicated closets and in other places. Even today, not all the books fit into the library. My adult children with families have libraries in their homes.

    In our family, it was common for one of the children to talk about and discuss a book he or she was reading at the dinner table. This usually caused a sibling to read it as well.

    We still have a wide variety of books, mostly non-fiction, and many times older books.

    I can understand why those who read fiction would like Kindle/e-readers. It is not always necessary to keep them. I find it more difficult to dispose of non-fiction, especially if the information is not time sensitive. I just purchased an Andrew Loomis book, today. Do I really need one more book? Why of course! Getting a book in the mailbox is like getting a present from a best friend!

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  24. I love books-- YA fiction, social commentary, adult fiction, reference, memoir-- just about anything, even the occasional historical fiction/romance.

    I can't tell you how many times I've been called a hoarder when someone walks in and sees shelf, after shelf, after shelf (sometimes stacked double or triple with pocket-size paperbacks) of books.

    I also can't tell you how many times I've been mocked for reading a book (even on an electronic device), or told that I can't be a very good mother if I really have time to read all those books. I've been told, so many times it makes me want to cry, to get my nose out of the book and come watch TV with the rest of the family.

    I have, with great sorrow, started making an effort to read less, and to get rid of my books.

    The hell with burying guns-- bury books. Save them for a time, in the far-distant future, when people might once again respect knowledge, curiosity, and the written word.

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  25. I learned a long time ago to be myself. Without my passions, I would be lost. It matters not if other approve or disapprove. Sometimes people attack when they become jealous or feel inferior. Don't allow their problem to become yours. Keep your books and ignore the comments! Children learn by example and you are giving your children the joy of learning, becoming an autodidact, something that the majority of people know nothing about.

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  26. My garage is filled with the boxes of books that won't fit in my house. Years ago we lived in a town that decided to cull their libraries. I went to the sale and was horrified to see the great children's books were being tossed out. At the time my [then only] daughter was 3, but I worried that nothing good would be around when she was old enough to read chapter books. Thus began my book collecting. [Thank you, Woodbridge, NJ!]. My mom, otoh, had no problems giving my books to Goodwill when I left home for college ["Well, you weren't going to reread those children's books, were you???"] so I've slowly been replacing all those lost in the Great Purge.

    All of us have our own ereader [either a Kindle or Kindle app on a tablet] and I use that for fiction, or giving a book a try. Anything worth keeping is then rebought as a real book. My girls feel the same way. Kindles are handy.....but we can't count on them forever.

    A lot of my book purchases now are history books over 50 years old. It's.....um....interesting [yeah, that's the word] to see how historical events are presented now vs then. makes for a good "Go to the direct source, otherwise you're relying on someone else's opinion" lesson.

    To M.C. - why should you make an effort to read less based on what people tell you? If you feel you're truly neglecting things, then by all means, make adjustments to your life. But don't listen to other people that you can't be a good mother if you really have time to read all those books. That's nonsense!

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  27. My garage is filled with the boxes of books that won't fit in my house. Years ago we lived in a town that decided to cull their libraries. I went to the sale and was horrified to see the great children's books were being tossed out. At the time my [then only] daughter was 3, but I worried that nothing good would be around when she was old enough to read chapter books. Thus began my book collecting. [Thank you, Woodbridge, NJ!]. My mom, otoh, had no problems giving my books to Goodwill when I left home for college ["Well, you weren't going to reread those children's books, were you???"] so I've slowly been replacing all those lost in the Great Purge.

    All of us have our own ereader [either a Kindle or Kindle app on a tablet] and I use that for fiction, or giving a book a try. Anything worth keeping is then rebought as a real book. My girls feel the same way. Kindles are handy.....but we can't count on them forever.

    A lot of my book purchases now are history books over 50 years old. It's.....um....interesting [yeah, that's the word] to see how historical events are presented now vs then. makes for a good "Go to the direct source, otherwise you're relying on someone else's opinion" lesson.

    To M.C. - why should you make an effort to read less based on what people tell you? If you feel you're truly neglecting things, then by all means, make adjustments to your life. But don't listen to other people that you can't be a good mother if you really have time to read all those books. That's nonsense!

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