What a wonderful time we live in. Sure, there are always things to lament and probably in this day and age there may be more than in any time in the past. Yet there is still much to be excited about and to be thankful for. It may seem incongruous to both lament the current times, while still being excited and thankful for them. That this is a paradox is a given, but I can live inside it without feeling any contradiction. Now this may all seem a little heavy for late on a Saturday night (in Australia it is approaching 11.00 pm at this moment and is sure to be later when I actually upload this post), however I am not really looking for a philosophical debate – far from it. In fact, my purpose is to talk books.
OK, so that seems a rather strange jumping off point, but I trust it will appear relevant as I move along with my thoughts and develop my argument. You see I have a large library. Indeed, some would call my library massive by today’s ‘average Joe’ standard. I have several thousand traditional hard copy books in my personal library. I probably have close to double that in my digital ebook library. So together I am probably approaching 10 000 books/ebooks and that continues to expand rapidly (in the digital realm anyway, having largely stopped acquiring traditional books). Sure, it is unlikely I’ll come close to reading anywhere near that many books. I view a large percentage of these books as ‘tools,’ into which I mine on a regular basis, not necessarily reading each one cover to cover. A great many books I do read cover to cover and I would expect that somewhere between 10 to 20 percent of my books/ebooks will be read in such a manner should I live to a ripe old age.
So what makes me particularly excited and thankful about this current age in the realm of books/ebooks? Well, it is probably becoming a little clear to the bibliophiles out there and maybe not so much to those who read very little. I have limited physical space in which to store books. Indeed my space for storing books has really been exhausted. I have reached peak book storage in my home. I literally will struggle to find room for any future books here, not to mention any further bookcases/bookshelves. I have no further physical room for them. The exciting thing is that I no longer require the physical space in order to further expand my library. In fact, the fields in which I am able to collect books now has also increased and indeed there are no longer any limits in that respect. I can gather ebooks from any field whatsoever and in whatever numbers I could wish, should I choose to do so. Ebooks can be stored on gadgets of all descriptions, on external hard drives, on computers and even in the cloud. I have an incredible amount of digital storage space at my disposal and I am using it.
However it is more than that. I have a large collection of books from the past. Sure, most of these are reprints of older editions (though I do own old books themselves), yet they are still works from an era long past. I would argue they still have relevance for today and I know many people who would also passionately argue the same thing. So though I have a lot of ‘newer’ books/ebooks in my personal library, it is the older ones that I am most interested in here. I can now easily grab a digital copy of most of the older books I have via places like the Internet Archive and/or even Google Books. Most are available in a number of formats, including PDF and Kindle. So I have this great resource available that I wouldn’t have had before this time in which I live. This is an amazing time to live and I am so thankful that I am able to easily get a digital copy of most of the books I currently own. This is great for backup purposes, for you never know if one day I’ll lose the entire physical library in a fire or some other type of disaster. But more than that, I am able to downsize the physical component of my library, claw back some physical space in the home and yet still have these great books fully available to me and able to be used and utilized in a far greater way, not just in the home but wherever I happen to be via my tablet, phone or lap top. I can be on the top of a mountain in the middle of the wilderness and still have access to thousands of ebooks in my library.
Now for many bibliophiles this is an exciting thing, though many still can’t escape the past and live in the modern world where the smell of an old book or the feel of a physical page isn’t the best thing about the written word. For me, it is all about the value of the content. Sure, I appreciate the appearance, etc, of the ebook/book that I have. But it is the content that reigns supreme for me and now with the added functionality of that content, with its much enhanced usefulness – well, that is far more important to me than these lesser things.
That is still not all of it though. With the Internet Archive and similar sites, I am now able to expand my personal library beyond what I could ever have imagined 20 or so years ago. Now I can get digital copies of books that I never thought I could never get a hold of before. This is probably the most exciting thing of all for me. All of those works written by authors that mean a lot to me, I can now gain access to their entire extant works. I can pretty much gain access to all of the works I want and have them in my own home via the various gadgets the modern world allows me to have. Now that is just incredible! And it just gets easier with each passing day – and better. At some point in the future my own personal library may be greater than that of the entire ancient Library of Alexandria and will take up nowhere near the amount of room that that ancient building in Egypt once occupied. Yeah, this is a wonderful time we live in.