At the end of the week, I’ll be moving west and writing about technology from The New York Times’s San Francisco bureau.
I’ve lived in New York City for 15 years, and over that time have amassed a lot of stuff. My personal belongings are strewn about the city, piled up in my apartment, stuffed into drawers at my office and stacked in a storage space in Brooklyn.
When it came time to pack for the big move, I was forced to cull what I could afford to send out to San Francisco from what I would have to throw away or give to friends. Most decisions were pretty simple; pots and pans, myÂ bicycleÂ and my Apple iPad would all make the trip. Old and now useless electronics and large furniture would stay.
But there was one thing (actually, many of one thing) that I couldn’t decide what to do about –Â my print books.
Although I love my print books, e-readers, in one form or another, have become my primary reading device over the past few years. I barely touch my print books, although they are still beautiful and important to me. But they sit on my bookshelf as aÂ decorative andÂ intellectualÂ art form.
I’ve always been a voracious reader, often buying 50 or so books a year, so before I joined the clan of e-reading New Yorkers, I had amassed hundreds of paperback and hardback books.
As I packed for the move, I questioned whether it made financial sense to ship my several hundred books acrossÂ the country, and more important, if I went through the trouble of doing this, what was the point when they would only sit untouched in a different city, just as they have for so many years in New York?
During a work meeting at The Times, I began talking about my move to San Francisco, and which of my personal belongings would make the trip. When I voiced my reluctance to ship my books, one of my editors, horror-stricken, said: “You have to take your books with you! I mean, they are books. They are so important!”
The book lover in me didn’t disagree, but the practical side of me did. I responded: “What’s the point if I’m not going to use them? I have digital versions now on my Kindle.” I also asked, “If I was talking about throwing away my CD or DVD collection, no one would bat an eyelid.”
As with most discussions that center on the topic ofÂ choosingÂ new technology over its analog counterpart, everyone in the room had a passionate opinion about what to do with my books. In discussions with others, friends who work in technology and have fullyÂ adoptedÂ a digital life all seem to think they should simply be given away or thrown out; those on the other side of the street fervently disagree.
In the end, I decided to leave 80 percent of the books behind, donating them to bookstores and even throwing some old, tattered volumes in the garbage. I still feel guilty about it, but I also feel vindicated by the practicality of my actions.
So although there are a few important print books that will make the trip, most will end up on someone else’s bookshelf, until they are forced to make the same decision too.
Readers, what would you have done? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.