Intellectual Currency


“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” –Cicero


Tower of Books in a Salem, MA, Bookstore


I have never been much of a gardener, but I am certainly an avid collector of books. I was entertained earlier this month when I saw a republication of a posting from last year on Apartment Therapy’s 20/20 Home Cure. The post was supposed to be about taming clutter, but in this list of tips for de-cluttering, the author recommends disposing of one’s books. I joined a riot of others as we lit up the Comments section of the piece. Get rid of our books because they’re clutter? What?

I struggle with what books to keep and what books to get rid of. A commenter posted that books are “intellectual currency” around one’s home to show the rest of the world how smart one is. Wow. Really? I never thought of them that way. I just like to read them and occasionally pass a book or two on to an interested friend.

Another consideration that came across my screen this week was this piece in the London Review of Books where James Meek proclaims:

“The lightness of the ebook medium, literally and figuratively, holds a terrible allure and an insidious threat to the heavily booked-up among us. How many marriages, seemingly held firm by the impossibility of moving several hundredweight of vinyl or CDs out of a family-sized home, have already foundered post the digitisation of music? How many more will break if apparently inseparable and immovable matrimonial libraries become something that anyone can walk out with in their pocket?”

If that’s not a stretch, I don’t know what is. I think if someone wants to leave a marriage, their home library, however large, is likely to be the least of their troubles. I have never seen reports of marriages that foundered because Hubs could walk out on Wifey after he downloaded all his CDs to his iPod. To say that the Kindle may incite such acts of abandonment entertains as much as it befuddles.

Ah, it has been a good week in books. My Facebook Feed was breeding updates, one after another, from Amazon Books as they posted the top books of 2011. Last I heard, there was still a month and a half left of the calendar year, but what do I know. Amazon also posted news on their Home Page about their new Kindle Lending Library for Prime members. As a Prime member, I was momentarily excited about this new perk, but as a friend of published authors, I wonder – what’s in it for them and their publishers? How does a model where books are “loaned,” in staggering numbers to millions of Prime members, encourage people in the business of writing and selling books to make more of them?

I am currently in school, training to become an editor. I trust that with the surge in authors uploading their PDF files into the seemingly painless ebook format, that there’s a lot of future work and growth potential in my field. Word among editors is that the authors, not the publishing houses, will be the ones paying the editors and that freelance opportunities will abound. I hope so. But, there’s a part of me that worries about the currently unsustainable market, largely perpetuated by Amazon, and what it holds for our future. I don’t want to have a “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” attitude. However, I am curious and anxious to see how it all shakes out.

As always, thanks for reading!



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