Lent is officially here. At my house, among other things, we’re taking stock of the way that we do things and what stuff is lying around. It’s time to think again about if, when, and how our stuff is holding us back.
For me this is always challenging work. The bulk of my possessions is easily in one major area: books. I’ve been through lots of schools and accumulated books through my course of study. I’ve also had the opportunity to plunder two good clergy libraries (people who were retiring and gave me an opportunity to go through their shelves and grab what I liked…). I have more bookshelves than can easily be numbered let alone books. And yet—that’s an awful lot of stuff…
In our last cross-country move, I actually had to go back and do the trip again because we had too many things the first time around. And the bulk of it was books…
They say that in letting go of things, you have to remember that relationships are more important than stuff. Sometimes we hold on to clutter and crap because we received various things from various people; we hold onto the material as a way of holding onto the relationship or holding on to the memories. The great mental hurdle is the realization that the relationship doesn’t have to go just because the item does.
But a book is a relationship.
It’s an opportunity to connect with someone else and to see inside their mind.
To let go of the book is to let go of that opportunity.
At least, that’s the way I’ve always rationalized it to myself…
When M and I first discussed getting Kindles (several years ago now), one of the decisions to get them was because of the promise of the reduction of physical books. If you can just have it electronically, then you don’t need to have it physically. Yeah, well, the promise inherent there hasn’t quite materialized yet.
I am getting closer, though. Over the last few days I’ve started thinking more seriously about thinning out the book collection. I won’t say I’m quite ready yet, but forward progress is occurring.
Of course, one of the things making this easier is the growing availability of electronic materials. Amazon has been doing a great job of convincing/coercing publishers into publishing electronically. There are a number of hopeful movements out there. You’ll note that Forward Movement is doing a great job of putting out things electronically (like Fr. John-Julian’s Stars in a Dark World). The St. Augustine’s Prayer Book will be available there soon (I just got word today that it’s finally being sent off to the printer on Wednesday!)
I was going to link to an example of a scholarly book where the hardback was selling for over a hundred dollars and the Kindle version was available for under ten—which is definitely movement in the right direction!—but upon checking I now see that the Kindle version is back above a hundred bucks. Ok—things are still shaking out there.
Additionally, a little competition is never a bad thing… I’ve been a huge fan of Paulist Press’s Classics of Western Spirituality series ever since encountering the mystics through it in college. It’s bugged me for a while that none of these books aren’t available for the Kindle. However, I recently got word that Logos is preparing to put out the series for their reference system. Right now they’re offering it in very large chunks: the whole set; or the set in three sections: Pre-Reformation Christianity, Post-Reformation Christianity, and Judaism, Islam, and Native American Religions. They’re in a pre-order state right now; I can only assume that individual volumes will also be available for sale once the set is completed.
Now—once I get a hold of an electronic copy of Meister Eckhart or Johannes Tauler or Jeremy Taylor, does that mean I’ll be willing to part with my paper copy?
Hmm. I’ll have to keep pondering that…