Tara Cheesman, [writing at BookRiot]:
I could give you a hundred of reasons why I keep books – that they are tangible objects representing who I am, they hold my history, they make a house a home, etc.,… but the truth is I just like books.
Jacques Bonnet (owner of 40,000+ books) gets this. His descriptions of his own “working library” is inspirational – “the kind where you don’t hesitate to write on your books, or read them in the bath; a library that results from keeping everything you have ever read – including paperbacks and perhaps several editions of the same title – as well as the ones you mean to read one day. A non-specialist library, or rather one specialized in so many areas that it becomes a general one.” A library that is both loved and used – isn’t that what most book lovers want? If you’re thinking of getting rid of your books, I strongly advise reading his book Phantoms on the Bookshelves before doing anything drastic.
I have gone back and forth on this question over the years (and with my music collection as well), and after a long stretch of buying only ebooks and mp3s, find myself purchasing physical copies of books and music again.
Your mileage may vary, obviously–these sorts of things tend to be intensely personal decisions. For me, though, I have found it is important to me to have physical books around. Some of that is just habit–I grew up in a house with a lot of full bookshelves and got used to be able to pull stuff off of them to read when I was bored. Since having kids, though, I find that I want them to have that same experience.
I also wonder if another factor isn't a feeling of being settled. I was much more enthusiastic about paring down my book and CD collections when I was moving frequently. Carting box upon box of media from one apartment or house to another every year was exhausting and frustrating. Now that I am mostly settled in a house we plan to stay in for the foreseeable future, though, the prospect of having to pack up a bunch of stuff is less of an issue.